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CHAPTER XLV. - 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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Letter to Mr. Parish. Reflections on Bonaparte’s intervention in Germany. Ideas on the re-election of Jefferson. Letter to John Penn, of London. The political world of America. Takes no active part in politics. Letter to Aaron Ogden. Believes the Constitution has received a mortal wound. Letter to the Duke of Orleans. Gives his opinion on the chances of the Bourbon restoration. Comments on European affairs.
Morris never ceased, naturally, to take an active interest in the affairs of the Continent of Europe, as well as in the political condition of Great Britain, and from time to time gave Mr. Parish the benefit of his reflections. Bonaparte’s intervention in Germany called forth a long letter on October 2d, in which he says: “In reflecting on the misfortunes which have befallen your city of Hamburg, I am forced to recollect a reproof I gave to one of your merchants for a want not only of Christian charity and national sentiment but, as it seemed to me, common humanity, when, the neutrality of the North being secured, Frankfort-on-the-Main was greatly distressed. I told him the time would probably come when Hamburg would, in her turn, experience the same distresses from the same cause. He seemed to suppose, and that opinion was indeed pretty general among you, that you were all safe under the protection of Russia. On all this subject I have had for many years of my life but one opinion. Ever since Frederick put himself at the head of the North to protect the rights of the Germanic body, there have, in my opinion, been two German Emperors, and the fault which I have perceived in Austrian politics was not to see the affair in that simple light, and agree at once to a partition. This alone would, in my poor opinion, have saved that country from France.
“It is now organized in such a way that of three parties, the Austrian, the Prussian, and the French, this last must be the strongest and, playing off the two first against each other, will govern the whole. Russia cannot, I think, act efficiently so far from home without deriving great resource from Britain or making the scene of war support her troops. Both may be needful, and France will certainly pursue those plans by which she has hitherto succeeded. If, therefore, you are to be protected you must pay for that protection, and if you are conquered you must pay for being conquered, and if you are plundered alternately by both parties you must pay liberal contributions for the honor thus conferred upon you. After all, you will find that you are depending on a dream, which for people wide-awake is a strange economy. This dream is what you call the Constitution of the Empire; in other words, the Treaty of Westphalia. Now when the constitution of a State exists only in and by a treaty it has, in effect, no constitution at all. Its fate must ever depend on its neighbors. Thus the condition of Germany depended on the relation of force between Austria and France till Prussia rose to a certain degree of eminence. Then the balance was destroyed; France had an ally to whom she could give the North whenever sufficient objects elsewhere might require it.
“The incidental circumstance that a King of Great Britain should be at the same time Elector of Hanover threw a small wheel into the machine which could only embarrass its progress without altering essentially the results. His Britannic Majesty, in his royal capacity, was the natural enemy, and in his electoral capacity the natural friend, of France. This single reflection will go further to unravel the policy of the Cabinet of St. James’s since the accession of the Brunswick line than half a volume of sterile facts. That we may come, then, to your situation, you are a fine prize to the neighbor to whom you may be allotted; but, if you remain a sovereignty, it must be owing to incidents so much out of the way in which events usually proceed that it will appear to me as a miracle. Those who find fault with the politics of Berlin are not, I believe, well acquainted with the interior of that country. Prussia has grown up so fast that, like all other plants of rapid growth, there is a want of solidity. A metaphor, I know, is not a reason; and I know, also, that to quote the text, ‘Those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword,’ will not, in the present temper of mankind, be considered as a sufficient proof of any worldly proposition. I must, therefore, say that a French army would wholly disjoint that monarchy. Poland is indignant at her present condition, and especially at the policy (which she calls perfidy) by which she was reduced to it. The chief blame is laid by the Poles on the late King of Prussia. There exists another interior cause of weakness. Frederick the Great was, in one respect, a very little and short-sighted politician. His vanity led him to sacrifice the power and safety of his successors to purchase the incense of a few wits who had undertaken to destroy the Christian religion; and here that hath happened which is written, ‘The fathers ate sour grapes which hath set the children’s teeth on edge.’ The destruction of religion has loosened the bonds of duty, and those of allegiance must ever be weak when there is a defect both of piety and morality. Frederick maintained his philosophy on the enthusiasm which his talents and good fortune had inspired. But when the talents went to the grave the blaze of enthusiasm naturally sank from the want of fuel; and I see no such fuel in the ministers of His Majesty.
“When I was at Berlin, the fate of Europe was in the hands of that Cabinet. I mentioned to one or two what, in my opinion, might be done. Among others, I detailed it to old Haugwitz. He pressed my hand, the tears rolling down his cheek, and cried out, ‘Oh, my dear sir, if the great Frederick, my old master, were alive, this conduct would indeed be as wise as it is great, but, alas!’ The time, I think, is now gone by, and can only return by some heavy misfortune to the French Emperor. If that should happen, feeble counsellors would take advantage of it to show the wisdom of remaining quiet before, and thence deduce the wisdom of still remaining quiet. I suppose, throughout, that there is no corruption. If there be, and you wish to know it, you must apply to M. de la Forêt and M. Talleyrand.”
Of the democratic principles and the politics of his own country Morris gave a short but pungent description, November 20th, in a letter to a friend in which he says: “Democratic principles are in the high-road of successful experiment, and we seem to be sailing before the wind in the old track towards monarchy, which has ever been the termination of mob government. Something may happen to arrest this progress to anarchy and stop us short of the abyss, and I indulge flattering hopes, but should be puzzled to assign any rational ground.”
To Madame de Staël he wrote in December, to congratulate her on her return to France: “J’ai vu par les gazettes allemandes, madame, qu’il vous est permis d’habiter la France, et sachant votre amour pour la patrie, je vous en fais mes félicitations. Vos affaires sont en si bonnes mains ici qu’elles ne peuvent que s’en bien trouver. [A certain Mr. Cooper had charge of the lands Mr. Morris had purchased for her.] Les détails, pourtant, ne peuvent vous être nuisibles, puisque le canton où sont vos terres est de plus en plus recherché par les colons de la Nouvelle Angleterre que nous appelons Yankees et qui sont, en effet, des meilleurs. Ainsi le prix ne manquera pas de devenir plus élevé.”∗
Affairs of various descriptions occupied Morris during the winter and summer of 1805. His business correspondence was large, and he was, besides, deeply engrossed in large land-schemes which required always the utmost knowledge and tact to successfully develop, and were rendered all the more difficult because many of the holders of land were foreigners, living in different parts of Europe, and communication was slow and uncertain.
Letters supply the history of this winter and spring better than the diary, but not before June 2d was there a letter of any particular interest written. Morris gives his friend Mr. Parish in this letter his ideas on the re-election of Mr. Jefferson, “who,” he says, “notwithstanding your conjectures, has been re-elected without opposition, although the talent of the country and most of its property is opposed to him. But his party thrive by sacrificing permanent public interest to a fleeting popularity. Their opponents therefore cannot expect favor from the people until the mischiefs that result from misconduct shall be felt. Mr. Jefferson’s supporters (the knowing ones, I mean) are all aware of his incapacity, but they have no person whom they can run, and their present object is to find out some new idol for the people to worship for the benefit of his priests. This party is split into two unequal portions: those who call themselves the moderates, and those who call themselves the genuine republicans; in other words, the few who enjoy, and the many who covet emolument. The former think as such folk always think, that measures which brought them into power deserve the name of reform, but that a continuance of such measures, annoying them in the exercise of power, is a flagrant abuse. They, of course, cry up the advantages of moderation, while their opponents point out their well-known vices and acknowledged defects. These folk have agreed to speak well of Jefferson, abuse the federalists, and disagree about everything else. This honorable compact has hitherto been adhered to and, except the first article, will not be violated. But notwithstanding that gentleman’s timid cunning, he will hardly be able so to trim for three years to come as not to be openly attacked before his time expires. If those who egged him on to violate his duty should hereafter punish him for it, you must not be surprised; for this, also, is in the natural order of things. Remember me affectionately to Voght, and tell him he had better come and purchase a barony in America; for if we should get revolutionized we must, in our turn, be be-starred and begartered, but if not, property must acquire its due weight, and, when joined to ability, secure to the possessor all that the world covets, so that he has a sure game to play.”
The following letter to the Honorable John Penn, Esq., M.P., of London, was written in consequence of a request from Mr. Penn for information of his ancestor, William Penn.
“Your ancestor,” Morris wrote, “was a truly great man whose qualities are not so well known as they ought to be. I have written to a son of my uncle Robert Hunter Morris,∗ to examine his father’s papers, and collect such materials as he may find among them suited to your purpose. The plan you mention is in every respect laudable. Our families have been connected in friendship from the reign of Charles the First, and when your father received the resignation of my uncle, he, in testifying his concern, said he had hoped, as long as there existed any of the name of Penn and Morris, the former would be the proprietors and the latter the governors of Pennsylvania. I cannot give authentication to many facts of a delicate nature, which I therefore forbear to mention. In general, there rests in my mind a conviction that your family was about that time betrayed by some in whom they reposed confidence, and whom, unfortunately, they continued to trust after unquestionable evidence of perfidy. Your good sense and humanity will, I trust, lead you to tread lightly on the ashes even of those men.
“I am glad that a personal acquaintance has enabled you to know the justice of that favorable opinion which I had formed and expressed of your royal family. The King is not only a well-bred gentleman, but (if I am able to form an opinion from conversations, not infrequent, at his levee) a man of much valuable information and sound sense. He is, moreover, religiously attached to his duty, and perfectly well knows what is required from a King, and from a British King. . . . In the art of government we supposed ourselves adepts, but time and experience will show, and perhaps remedy, our defects. . . . In effect, our population is too sparse for much mischief, and it is evidently the interest of a majority, as it is certainly the general interest, to maintain order and support justice. When some storm shall arise from abroad, and who, in the changeable climate of political life, can expect a continued calm? the mischiefs of our system will show themselves so clearly as to compel the most unwilling to submit to proper alterations. In short, my dear sir, men, like other animals, discover instinctively what is fit for them, and thus government becomes the result of character, manners, and condition. By the by, you mistake in supposing that I hold an office. I am in what Mr. Madison calls the post of honor, viz., a private station.”
To Mr. Mountflorence Morris wrote on June 22d, rather despondingly, of the political world of America: “Our democrats are split (from New England southward) under various appellations, amounting, in effect, to the difference between the Modérés and Jacobins in France, or between those who have got into power and those who are getting into power on the shoulders of the mob. By this word mob I mean not so much the indigent as the vicious, hot-headed, and inconsiderate part of the community, together with that numerous host of tools which knaves do work with called fools. These folks form the majority of all empires, kingdoms, and commonwealths, and, of course, when not restrained by political institutions or coerced by an armed force, possess the efficient power. And as power so possessed must needs be abused, it follows, in direct consequence, that the affairs of a democracy will ever be in the hands of weak and wicked men, unless when distress or danger shall compel a reluctant people to choose a wise and virtuous administration. From this you will perhaps infer that democracy is a bad species of government; but there we shall disagree, for I hold that it is no government at all, but, in fact, the death or dissolution of other systems, or the passage from one kind of government to another. What the new system may be time alone can discover.”
That philosophy which was one of Morris’s strong characteristics he clearly showed in the following letter to Robert R. Livingston, in which he made a mild remonstrance against an imputed indifference to the public welfare from the fact of his not holding office under the Government.
“I have always found,” he says, “that the enmity of my enemies could be counted on with more certainty than the friendship of my friends. That I and my friends take no part in the politics of the day is not only natural but necessary, for if we should support either faction of a party whose point of union was their enmity to us, we should acknowledge as true the false and foul charges they brought against us. . . . But, my dear sir, when you speak of my indifference you do not sufficiently consider my situation. I never sought, avoided, or resigned an office, but continued at my last post to the latest moment, and was then replaced by a gentleman who was, I presume, more worthy of the public confidence.
“It becomes me, in submission to the will of my fellow-citizens, to doubt of my talents, for I cannot, neither can they, doubt of my integrity. Unworthy, then, of the honors and offices of our country, what remains but to cultivate quietly my farm and bring my sentiments to the level of my condition? My future conduct must be governed by circumstances which cannot now be foreseen, but as the people have thought proper to sever those ties by which I was formerly bound to their service, they have conferred a right to accept or refuse any future offer. I am connected with the members of my party by their worth and by their kindness. If I could for a moment suppose they harbored designs unfriendly to our country, that moment the connection would be dissolved. But I have all the evidence which the nature of the case admits, that their views are honorable, just, and patriotic. I believe this, also, of many among your party and among your present adversaries. It is my wish that every such man were numbered in our fold, that so we might stand and fall together. I shall not, however, preach politics in the vain hope of making converts; for a mind cooled by the winters of half a century has no disposition to become a moral Quixote. It is my duty to accept with resignation what the will of God has offered, and this becomes less difficult from a conviction that few men or things are worth one anxious thought.”
“To-day I dine with the corporation,” the diary for November 25th mentions. “After dinner Mr. King and I visit a party to which we were invited—a large dinner given to General Moreau.∗ It seems certain that our Government will adhere to the resolution of doing nothing. Great Britain will probably increase the depredations on our commerce. Spain will perhaps give the Floridas for the country west of the Mississippi, provided we give boot. Miranda has been down, and, as we expected, met with no encouragement. He is now engaged in a project which would be wise if backed by this country, but appears wild in its present form.”
Being appealed to by Mr. Jonathan Dayton, during the autumn of this year, to enlighten the public, through the medium of the gazettes, on the foreign and domestic concerns of the country, Morris objected to this request the fact that the newspapers already abounded in articles which “few,” he wrote, December 18th, “take the trouble to read, and it is not easy to enlighten those who are not already possessed of more information than men in general can spare time to acquire. And, after all, it would be presumptuous in me to obtrude the reflections and experience of only thirty years on a community every member of which is a statesman born. That our administration is too feeble is, I believe, too true. What you say of their chief is curious. When he told you we have the choice of enemies, he stated a fact applicable at all times to all countries, since any blundering blockhead can make a war; but when he acknowledged that we have not a choice of friends, he pronounced the severest satire on himself, since this misfortune can be attributed only to a series of false and foolish measures. The position of our country enables her, in general, to take the part which may best suit her interest; and the state of Europe for several years past has been such that the exercise of a little common-sense would not only have preserved us from our present ridiculous condition but placed us perfectly at ease both at home and abroad.”
“You ask me a question,” Morris wrote, December 28th, to Mr. Aaron Ogden, of Elizabethtown, “telling me, at the same time, that it can be answered by none but a prophet. I hope you do not mean to confer that title on me, who pretend only to compare present events with what happened in the ancient days. Those who will not believe Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one should rise from the dead; and those who will not trust the experience of history are incapable of political knowledge. Your question is a kind of dilemma. If by the former part you mean to ask whether the power of our Federal Constitution will be committed to able, respectable men—I answer, no. That Constitution received, through the judiciary, a mortal wound, and has declined more rapidly than was apprehended by the most fearful. To the second part of your dilemma I say that, if the morals of our country were sound, we might foster high hopes; but, thanks to the present administration, we have travelled farther in the road to corruption during three years than England did in half a century. British corruption has, indeed, been greatly exaggerated. It is far from general, either in the House of Commons or in the election of members to that house. A choice in the counties being made (as you know) by free-holders, is, generally speaking, out of the reach of corrupt influence, and it is to be noted, in reasoning on English affairs, that the ministers always, on important questions, consult the wishes of county members; so that a measure is abandoned if disagreeable to them. With us corruption begins where, by the analogies of England, it should have ended. Our people are deeply corrupted by that licentious spirit which seeks emolument in the prostration of authority. The outwork of respect has long since been carried, and every new election presents a more hideous picture of the public mind; so that, if the character of the people is to be estimated by the objects of their choice, we shall find it difficult to support a claim to wisdom or virtue. No parallel can perhaps be found to such morbid affection, unless among the Athenians, and even the mob government of that extravagant tribe was in some respects preferable to representative democracy. A mob is, indeed, a whimsical legislature and a wild tribunal, but it has, in the midst of its madness, some sense of national honor and some regard for justice. A body of representatives, when influenced by Faction, will do acts of cruelty and baseness which the most profligate among them would, in his personal character, be ashamed to avow.
“You conclude, perhaps, that I adopt the second part of your dilemma. If so, you are mistaken. Our population is sparse and (pardon a coarse allusion), like small beer, more susceptible of acetous than spirituous fermentation. It is probable that the relaxation of morals will operate chiefly on the judicial department, be more characterized by fraud than violence, and terminate rather in baseness than tyranny. But there is, as you know, a point of depression from which things return in a contrary course. There are also chances which may befall us before we reach that ultimate point. Being in the great family of nations, our family cannot be ignorant of our condition. They must perceive that, without force to protect a territory and commerce widely extended, without wisdom or vigor in our councils, we present a fair object to their cupidity. If, then, we do not receive a broad hint within ten years it must be numbered among the moral phenomena. Nations, like individuals, are not to be reasoned out of vice much less out of folly, but learn wisdom and virtue in the school of affliction. . . . America, my good friend, will at length learn some of those things which an attentive study of the ancients long since taught you. The people of the United States will discover that every kind of government is liable to evil; that the best is that which has fewest faults; that the excellence even of that best depends more on its fitness for the nation where it is established than on intrinsic perfection. . . . How far the influence of habits, manners, and opinions will permit them to pursue the best road is a problem of no easy solution. One thing is certain, democracy cannot last. It is not so much a government as the dissolution of government, being, indeed, the natural death of republics; so that, in reality, there are but two forms, monarchy and aristocracy. That either should exist unmixed is next to impossible. The despot must employ many who will both check and direct his power, and the most cunning senate cannot avoid giving to individuals a considerable share of authority. Moreover, be the complexion of a government monarchic or aristocratic, it can do little when unsupported by popular sentiment.
“Our poor friend Hamilton bestrode his hobby, to the great annoyance of his friends and not without injury to himself. More a theoretic than a practical man, he was not sufficiently convinced that a system may be good in itself and bad in relation to particular circumstances. He well knew that his favorite form was inadmissible, unless as the result of civil war, and I suspect that his belief in that which he called an approaching crisis arose from a conviction that the kind of government most suitable, in his opinion, to this extensive country, could be established in no other way.
“When our population shall have reached a certain extent his system may be proper, and the people may then be disposed to adopt it; but under present circumstances they will not, neither would it answer any valuable purpose. Statesmen are frequently obliged to acknowledge that the things which they consider as best are unattainable. It would be a misfortune, under present circumstances, to be chosen member of a convention for the purpose of mending our Constitution. A man may easily put his finger on its faults: but let it be remembered that nothing human is perfect, and that every change is hazardous.
“When a general question is raised as to the best form of government, it should be discussed under the consideration that this best, being presupposed, is, if unable to preserve itself, good for nothing; wherefore permanency is an essential object to which minor advantage must be sacrificed. But an absolute, that is, an unmixed monarchy, would hardly last three lives. Perhaps, on impartial in quiry, it may appear that a country is best governed (taking for a standard any long period, such as half a century) when the principal authority is vested in a permanent senate. But there seems little probability that such a body should be established here. Let it be proposed by the best men among us, and it would be considered as a plan for aggrandizing themselves. Experience alone can incline the people to such an institution. That a man should be born a legislator is now among unfledged witlings the frequent subject of ridicule. But experience, that wrinkled matron which genius contemns and youth abhors—experience, the mother of wisdom—will tell us that the man destined from the cradle to act an important part will not, in general, be so unfit as those who are objects of popular choice. But hereditary senators could not long preserve their power. In order to strengthen the body it might be needful to weaken the members, and, fixing the office for life, fill up vacancies from (but not by) the people. When a general abuse of the right of election shall have robbed our government of respect, and its imbecility have involved it in difficulties, the people will feel what your friend once said, that they want something to protect them against themselves. ‘Is thy servant,’ said the Syrian general, ‘a dog, that he should do this thing?’ Put down the names of fifty leading democrats from the North. You will, on a change of times, see them as obsequiously cringe to individuals as they now servilely flatter the populace; for a courtier and demagogue differ only in forms, which, like clothes, are put on and off as suits the occasion. Interiorly there is the same rottenness, the same duplicity, the same fawning, the same treachery, the same baseness. Hold up to each his picture and each will, like the Syrian, exclaim, ‘Is it possible thy servant should be such a dog.’ Yet dogs, vile dogs like these, possess themselves of power under despotic or democratic rule.”
Just at this time, while looking over and adjusting his affairs, Morris found “some articles,” as he expressed it, “at the debit of his Royal Highness the Duke of Orleans;” but, with his accustomed delicacy in dealing with those among the émigrés who had appealed to him for sympathy in former years, in advising the Duke of his indebtedness he wrote: “I send a note to my friends Messrs. Inglis and Ellice on the subject. These gentlemen will do themselves the honor of applying to your Royal Highness on the subject. The payment must depend entirely on your Royal Highness’s convenience, for although it would, under present circumstances, be very convenient to me to receive—the principles which first led to the advance will ever prevent me from pressing the payment at a moment unsuitable.”
The principal and interest of the debt amounted at this moment to upward of seven thousand dollars. “I hope,” Morris wrote to Messrs. Inglis and Ellice, “it may suit the Duke of Orleans to pay; but if not, it will be right to have the account settled and take a note for the amount.” The Duke of Orleans finally, and after much reluctance, paid the original debt, but the interest never reached Morris. Whether it was ever paid, and the money kept back by some agent employed in the affair, will remain always uncertain.
In January, 1806, Morris made occasion to write to the Duke, and, first giving him his opinion in regard to the chances of a restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of France, he further said:
“Si je ne me suis pas permis d’écrire souvent à votre Altesse Royale, ce n’est pas que j’aie perdu de vue ses intérêts ou ceux de son auguste famille, mais dans la conviction qu’il m’était impossible de lui être utile. J’ai cru devoir déplorer en silence ses malheurs et ceux de la France—malheurs qui ne m’étaient point inattendus et que j’avais même prédits il y a quinze ans. Les circonstances actuelles, suites nécessaires de celles qui les ont précédées, me frappèrent fortement l’esprit lors du traité d’Amiens.∗ Je supplie votre Altesse Royale de vouloir bien me permettre d’y jeter un coup d’œil rapide.
“Il me semble que les grandes puissances n’ont aucune envie de remettre sur le trône la Maison royale de France. À commencer par l’Autriche, il n’est pas douteux que les Bourbons, qui se sont opposés à son agrandissement, en Italie comme en Espagne et lui ont arraché l’Espagne, seront toujours les objets de sa haine; au ressentiment du passé se joindra la crainte de l’avenir. Je ne crois pas non plus que l’Angleterre désire une révolution en France. Le moment d’enthousiasme passé, la saine politique lui défend maintenant de réunir la France à l’Espagne. Il est de son intérêt que les royaumes en deçà et au delà des Pyrénées soient rivaux. La France, dans sa qualité de protectrice de l’Allemagne, est la ressource des princes faibles contre l’Empereur. Ils comptent d’autant plus sur elle qu’il est de sa politique d’éloigner les armées autrichiennes du Rhin, et d’y entretenir de petites puissances lesquelles lui seront dévouées par la relation de leur faiblesse avec sa force. Sous ce point de vue, il est indifférent à la Prusse que Louis ou Napoléon soit assis sur le trône; mais il ne lui est pas indifférent que la France soit ouverte du côté de l’Espagne, de l’Angleterre et de l’Italie, puisque plus ses dangers sont grands plus elle recherchera l’alliance de la Prusse. Si Bonaparte s’est permis, en dernier lieu, de négliger la cour de Berlin, c’est par la seule conscience de sa propre force. Aussi la prépondérance de cette force a-t-elle fait ouvrir enfin les yeux de Sa Majesté prussienne aux dangers de l’Europe. Mais elle renouera ses anciennes liaisons au moment où Napoleon ne pourra plus attenter aux droits des autres nations.
“La Russie, par suite de son éloignement et de sa force colossale, peut se dispenser de prendre un vif intérêt à la politique intérieure de la France; mais, vu l’instinct naturel aux souverains, elle ne sera pas fâchée de voir une puissance médiocre à la place d’une très grande. Il est vrai qu’un mouvement passager, soit d’indignation soit de générosité, peut déranger pour un moment les calculs politiques qui, à la longue pourtant, dirigent les cabinets.
“Ainsi je crois, Monseigneur, que dans les circonstances actuelles on ne doit pas espérer la rétablissement de la famille royale en France, et j’ose bâtir, sur cette considération même, son agrandissement éventuel. À cet effet, voyons un instant le but poursuivi par l’alliance et les Alliés. On cherche, d’abord, à diminuer la force d’un conquérant redoutable—but d’ordre général provenant d’un intérêt tout aussi général. Aussi, c’est l’objet unique de la Russie du côté de l’occident. L’Autriche convoite la Bavière dont l’Électeur, en s’alliant à la France, lui donne beau jeu. Elle désire, aussi, se réhabiliter en Italie, mais ses alliés n’ont point le même désir. La Prusse veut acquérir l’Électorat de Hanovre, avec les Villes Hanséatiques, Hambourg, Lübeck et Brême. Il me semble que le roi d’Angleterre doit s’y préter, pourvu que les Pays-Bas autrichiens, y compris l’Évêché de Liège, lui soient accordés en échange. La Hollande tomberait alors en échange du pays de Fulde, en partage à la Maison d’Orange, sous le titre de duché-principauté ou tel autre qu’on voudra. Dans tout état de choses, les Alliés seront d’accord pour prendre à Bonaparte ses possessions en Italie; et voilà, je crois, ce qu’il faut demander pour le roi de France, en y comprenant la Savoie. Les Alliés, à l’exception de l’Empereur, doivent le désirer, puisqu’on s’assurera par ce moyen une barrière contre la France et contre l’Autriche; choses utiles à l’Angleterre, à la Prusse et à l’Espagne, mais essentielles au pape et au roi de Naples. Il me semble que l’Autriche même n’en sera pas très éloignée, parce qu’il lui vaudra mieux renoncer à ses projets sur l’Italie que de s’exposer à être envahie par la France. Je suis même persuadé qu’elle y consentira de bonne grâce si on lui accorde la Bavière. Dans ce cas pourtant, il conviendrait de prendre en échange pour le roi de Sardaigne le territoire de Venise et que le roi de Prusse fasse la cession d’Anspach et de Bayreuth à l’Électeur de Bavière.
“Au reste, on ne peut pas plaire à tout le monde, et on ne doit pas faire dépendre les plus grands intérêts des plus petits. Or, le plus grand intérêt, ou (ce qui revient au même) celui qui paraît l’être, est d’ériger une forte puissance dans le nord de l’Italie, pour en fermer les portes aux voisins.
“La renonciation du roi au trône de France pourra bien le révolter, mais cette renonciation me paraît l’unique moyen de s’en assurer. Un acte de ce genre est nul, par la constitution de la monarchie, et lorsque les Français rappelleront leur roi, il ne sera plus le maître de différer; or, il m’est démontré qu’ils lui adresseront cette invitation, surtout s’il se trouve en état de leur faire cadeau du Piémont, etc. En supposant que Bonaparte soit vivement pressé par ses ennemis—et certes, il doit à la longue fléchir sous le poids de leurs armes—il sera fort aise de céder le royaume d’Italie pour s’assurer de la France. Mais la France, réduite à ses anciennes limites et voyant se dissiper le prestige dont on l’a bercée, ne souffrira plus le régime actuel. Les ambitieux qu’elle recèle dans son sein s’entredéchireront jusqu’à ce qu’il se trouve un chef assez sage pour rechercher la famille de Bourbon, qui seule peut rétablir le calme et le bonheur. Mais il est de la dernière importance qu’au moment où les vrais Français reviendront à leurs anciens sentiments, leur roi soit dans une position où il pourra les appuyer d’une force considérable. À cet effet, s’étant ménagé, par une économie sage, de quoi faire marcher un corps de troupes suisses et s’étant assuré d’une puissante diversion du côté de l’Espagne, le coup sera frappé avant que les grandes puisances ne s’en mêlent; et, la chose faite, elles enverront à Sa Majesté des ambassadeurs, lui témoigner une satisfaction qu’elles ne ressentiront pas. Je vous demande mille pardons, Monseigneur, d’avoir tant abusé de votre patience, et vous prie de croire que je suis, avec le plus respectueux attachement, de votre Altesse Royale le très humble serviteur.”∗
Accounts from Europe were at this moment unfavorable to the Allied Powers. Napoleon was over the Inn, and marching against the Austrians; the Russians were not yet collected to oppose him with effect. Commenting on this state of affairs, January 3d, 1806, to Messrs. Inglis, Ellice & Co., his bankers in London, Morris says:
“By activity alone Bonaparte can avoid being crushed by the weight of the Allies, if, as I take it, both Prussia and Denmark, with Saxony and Hesse-Cassel, are opposed to him. This contest must terminate by reducing the power of France, or leaving the world at her mercy for some time to come.
“Your glorious sea-combat under Lord Nelson shows what those who attended to the subject were long since convinced of—that you are completely masters of the ocean. In the consciousness of power you will, I fear, overleap the bounds both of prudence and justice, of which we, in the first instance, and you in the last, will be victims. I know it must be unpleasant to your mercantile spirit to see a large, and, we may add, a disproportionate share of the world’s commerce under the American flag, and the cupidity of your seamen may cast a longing eye at the spoil which might be torn from us almost without an effort. But it would be wise to consider that now, as heretofore, the results of our industry are poured into your lap, and that in the vicissitude of human affairs you may find it needful to invoke principles which it may now be convenient to neglect. I will not make this letter a treatise on national law, but simply observe that, if to carry to your enemy the implements of war be unjustifiable, it is certainly justifiable to supply him with bread; and if it is justifiable to supply him with necessaries, it is more than justifiable to supply him with luxuries. Far from blaming, you should praise us for sending tea and coffee to France and Spain, taking from them as we do, in return, their money—the sinews of war. That our administration and their friends and servants have not treated you with the friendship and respect which good men among us wish is true; but we ought not, on that account, to be embroiled, for in the course of a contest the cause is frequently forgotten. Irritation supplies the place of reason and lasting enmities arise from accidental circumstances. I hope this will not be.”
“I have just read the memoirs of Talleyrand,” Morris wrote to his friend Mr. Parish, February 18th, “in which I find some truth with a great deal of falsehood. Everything is exaggerated, even his wealth of talents. His character, also, is mistaken. He is not exactly of criminal disposition, though certainly indifferent between virtue and vice; he would rather do right than do wrong, and would not, I believe, perpetrate a great crime. The story of poisoning, and the like, cannot be true. Many similar publications have lately fallen into my hands, and the French Revolutionists are painted in them as black as the devil. Unquestionably there has been more of crime acted within the last ten years on the French theatre than is usually to be found in the records of history; and as unquestionably the systems reared on such abominable foundations must soon crumble into ruin. Such is the unalterable law of God, attested by the undeviating experience of past ages, but it will not be by hands perfectly pure that the present powers will be overthrown, or new ones raised. Crime begets crime, and one abomination succeeds to another, until mankind are driven back towards innocence by the sore experience of guilt. From the banks of the Elbe, now alive with navigation, you will look calmly at the storm of nations.”
Again on March 19th he wrote to Mr. Parish: “We have not sufficient information to decide on the actual or probable state of things in Europe, but it would seem that the power of Austria lies prostrate at the foot of France. If this be so, Napoleon will consult merely his own interest. To make up a judgment of this sort, more talent and more intelligence are required than I pretend to possess; of course, my best calculations are but guess-work. I guess, however, that the territory of Venice, and perhaps the Tyrolese, will be taken from Austria, together with everything which belongs to it in Suabia. I guess that Poland will be again formed into a kingdom, and perhaps Prussia may be compensated by Hanover for the loss of territory elsewhere. Perhaps Silesia may be restored to Austria. I will not make any further guesses, but I conclude that the peace will be terminated just in season for the operations of the next campaign, and that in the mean time the French armies will subsist on the conquered countries. Prussia will hardly contend single-handed against France, and Napoleon will probably reserve his decisions as to his friend in Prussia till he has finished his enemy in Austria. Whether he will do more than threaten us will, I presume, depend on the counsel of Britain. Mr. Pitt will perhaps be removed and an administration be formed from the friends of Fox and Grenville in spite of the King, and any new administration must adopt something new in its conduct. Fox, to preserve anything like consistency, must try to make peace; and Grenville must, for the same reason, insist on war till a better peace can be made than the Treaty of Amiens. Thus the facts which regard us are purely conjectural, and, of course, the conclusions to be drawn from them. We are not even a secondary consideration in the councils of France. If, to get a breathing spell, some new compact be patched up with England, Napoleon will certainly be troublesome to us, and he will push Spain forward (as the injured party), reserving to himself the game of a faithful ally to Spain.
“There, my dear sir, I have given you the best result of my speculations.”
[∗]Translation.—I notice in the German gazettes, Madam, that you are allowed to live in France, and, knowing your patriotism, I felicitate you accordingly. Your affairs here are in such good hands that they cannot but receive the benefit of the fact. Details of them, however, can do you no harm, since the region in which your land is situated is more and more sought by New England colonists, whom we call Yankees, and who are, indeed, of the best. Thus its value cannot fail to augment.
[∗]Robert Hunter Morris had been Governor of the Colonies of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
[∗]General Moreau had been banished in 1804 by Napoleon—first to Spain, and then to the United States, for conspiracy. He remained in this country seven years, when he returned to Europe, entered the service of the Czar, and was killed at the battle of Dresden, in 1813.
[∗]March 27, 1802
[∗]Translation.—If I have not allowed myself to write often to your Royal Highness, it was not because I had lost sight of your interests or those of your august family, but because I felt convinced of my inability to be of use. I thought best to deplore silently your Royal Highness’s misfortunes and those of France—misfortunes by no means unexpected to me, as I had predicted their advent fifteen years ago. The present circumstances, the natural sequel of the preceding state of things, struck my mind strongly at the time of the Treaty of Amiens. I earnestly beg your Royal Highness to glance rapidly over it all with me.