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CHAPTER XLVI. - 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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The summer of 1806. Letter to Samuel Hunt. Morris fears war. Conduct of the administration. Letter to Madame de Staël. General Moreau. Letter to Chief Justice Marshall. Washington’s character. Details relative to Lafayette’s liberation in 1796. Waiting for European news. Begs Madame de Staël to come to Morrisania. Napoleon’s victory at Friedland. Letter to Madame Foucault. Letter to the Marquis of Stafford.
Several short tours through New York and New England occupied and interested Morris during the summer of 1806. The pretty farms and picturesque country through which he passed, over hills, and down into valleys along the banks of streams, made a charming variety. “I do not remember,” he says, “to have seen anywhere so beautiful a country.” At home again by the 24th of September, he once more resumed the thread of his daily routine. That war was an inevitable consequence of the conduct of the administration Morris was at this time fully convinced, and, writing to Samuel Hunt, of Marietta, on October 3d, he gave vent to his impressions of the general demoralization in high places, as follows:
“It is to be noted that sound heads are rarely found in the company of rotten hearts. Vice corrupts alike the judgment and the will; whereby it happens that bad projects are seldom well matured. . . . Let us take up certain suggestions respecting plans agitated in your quarter. It seems far from impossible that some foreign powers should wish to see a severance of our Union, and that they would, at a suitable moment, take under their protection the ultramontane republic. It is not therefore impossible that their agents should listen attentively to propositions tending that way, and it is not improbable that, if a scheme of this sort should be in agitation, communications would be made by leading characters with a view to foreign aid. Disobedience would be encouraged, and the noise of needy retainers to conspiracy would be called the voice of the people, and then, by blasphemous transition, the voice of God. But these subtle contrivers will find themselves egregiously mistaken and find, to their cost, that they have merely given to the body politic a sufficient stimulus to throw off its foul humors. Our politicians have been much alarmed, I hear, by the apprehension of a peace between England and France, which will, they suppose, be followed by such measures on the part of the latter as may compromise our independence. Our rulers, like the sluggard, ask a little more sleep and a little more slumber, but sooner or later they will be awakened in no pleasant manner. The war between France and England cannot be eternal. It seems to me that sundry untoward circumstances are like to arise, and, considering the divided and defenceless state of our country, no common firmness, skill, and dexterity will be required in the management of our most important concerns. Perhaps these ideas flow from the timidity incident to age. At any rate, I will not, by publishing them, become an alarmist. That Jefferson should lose his popularity is natural enough, but those who were wedded to his opinions should not now be permitted to claim a divorce. He, poor creature, could have done nothing had he not been supported by others. If, indeed, he had, after getting into power, displayed any glaring and enormous vice, his adherents might be allowed to plead their ignorance and his hypocrisy. But his folly is the great evil under which America groans, and his adherents boasted of his wisdom. Let them be reminded of this, and take to themselves the resulting alternative.”
A yearly letter, at least, to M. Necker and Madame de Staël kept them informed of the state of their property in America, and of the sales, when the agents were fortunate enough to make any. Morris’s letters to Madame de Staël were, however, not wholly devoted to the discussion of acres and tenants and rents, as the following epistle, in answer (October 7th) to one from her, will testify. From her letter he quoted the initial sentence.
“‘Si je n’avais que vingt-cinq ans au lieu de trente-cinq, je crois que j’irais vous voir. Vous ne me croyez, donc, propre qu’à la société des jeunes demoiselles. Soyez persuadée, je vous prie, du contraire. Croyez, aussi, que l’âge de raison est celui qui convient aux voyages. On en profite mieux, on y risque moins. Bâtir des châteaux en Espagne, est une folie amusante: en bâtir aux États-Unis, serait une folie ruineuse; la main-d’œuvre est trop chère. Mais faire un petit établissement d’été dans un pays neuf qui avance rapidement, y passer trois à cinq mois de la belle saison, séjournir quatre autres mois, soit à Philadelphie soit à New York, et employer en voyages ce qui reste de l’année: voilà, je crois, une manière de vivre qui ne manque pas de sens commun, surtout par le temps qu’il fait. Votre petite lettre du 3 juillet m’a fait d’autant plus de plaisir, madame, que votre cœur y parle aussi bien que votre esprit. Heureux celui qui peut jouir de votre société. Ne frondez pas, cependant, la petite brochure. Son auteur ne désire pas la mort du pécheur, mais qu’il abandonne son impiété. Les rois renoncent à l’indépendance, parce qu’en vrais philosophes ils préfèrent la vie à l’honneur. Lorsqu’il se trouve une exception à la règle générale du siècle, tout en approuvant l’orgueil qui l’inspire, il faut le ramener au sentiment de ce qu’il doit aux autres: cela n’est pas lui faire tort. Au contraire, en aiguillonant partout l’esprit d’indépendance, on prépare des alliés à ceux qui se battent pour la liberté des nations. Vous me direz, peut-être, que c’est trop finement filer la politique. Mais je ne suis pas homme politique, madame, et d’ailleurs, c’est le sentiment de l’auteur que j’exprime; le mien, à la vérité, ne s’en éloigne pas beaucoup. Je crois qu’il faut tout hasarder, tout sacrifier pour l’honneur national, dans la conviction qu’il ne reste plus rien à perdre lorsqu’on a perdu l’honneur.”∗
The news of the Battle of Jena, fought in October, had apparently just reached America, to judge from the following letter, written the 12th of November, to Mr. Parish, at Neusteden: “You mention,” Morris says, “that Prussia was at the feet of Bonaparte without a struggle. This I distinctly predicted to the Count Haugwitz and Baron Alvensleben in July, 1796, and stated publicly to the American Senate in February, 1803; and that France would become the dominant power of the world, unless restrained by wise and vigorous application of superior force, was my decided opinion, expressed to those whom it might concern in 1795, 1796, and 1797. That opinion has not changed. It was taken in 1789 and suggested, early in the year 1790, for the consideration of those who could then have prevented much mischief, not only without effort but without hazard, securing at the same time the gratitude and applause of millions. But Providence had otherwise ordained. It is still possible, however, to overturn that colossal power. The French armies will not resist the attack of British and German troops, if these be well led. They have not sufficient steadiness. The Russians will certainly beat them under any tolerable management. The new Emperor, if his armies are discomfited, will hardly be able to preserve his authority. Your Danes are brave, though not inured to war, and rather sluggish, but the Swedes are incomparable stuff for soldiers. They can, if need be, live on the bark of trees, and nothing earthly is braver. They are active, also. The Dutch, the Swiss, the Italians, the Bavarians, will gladly shake off the yoke if they can. Depend upon it, if the French are ferried a little way up the Danube Prince Charles will not be idle. If, on the other hand, France be successful, all the South will be hushed as mice when they see the cat coming. And yet they will get nothing by lying still; the fatter and sleeker they are, the better will pussy be pleased.
“You think Hanover will return to its old master. This may be. I rather think it is the interest of Europe that it should not, but that England should receive Holland and the Low Countries. . . . Will Hamburg and Lübeck fall to Prussia or Denmark? I really cannot answer that question, my good friend. . . . As a ci-devant Hambourgeois, you may perhaps prefer the interest of that city, which would be much promoted by an union with Prussia and the consequent opening of the Elbe. Let me tell you, further, that if England were in possession of Flanders, and Prussia of Hanover, these nations would be sincere allies. Prussia would court the protection of the British navy, and England the aid of Prussian armies. Pray make my compliments to the King of Prussia, and desire him to pull down the walls of Hamburg. If ever I pay that place another visit I should like to have the liberty of coming and going at pleasure with regard to hours. Seriously, remember me to your family and my friends.”
Morris was certainly prophetic in the views he held of what would be the future of the city of New York, for in his diary, on the 10th of January, 1807, he mentioned the fact that “some speculators are about to build a village at Harlem Cove, which they call Manhattan. It seems as if the whole island of New York were soon to become a village or a town. In less than twenty years, if things move on in their present course, it will be divided in small lots as far up as what are called Harlem Heights, where stood Fort Washington.”
“General Moreau, and the three gentlemen who accompanied him and dined with me yesterday, leave me this morning [January 12th]. Among many pleasant and some curious anecdotes Moreau mentions the filthy conduct of the Bonaparte family. Madame Leclerc, as all the world knows, the present Princess Borghese, is a Messalina. Moreau says the Empress told him that her husband and his sister, Madame Leclerc, were too intimate. He told this to Madame Leclerc, who denied it, at first, by saying the Empress was no better than she should be herself. At length she acknowledged it. Bonaparte wanted Moreau to marry his sister, Madame Murat, or his daughter-in-law, now Queen of Holland. The refusal was perhaps the primary cause of Moreau’s exile.”
“By an arrival yesterday [January 29th] it would seem that Bonaparte is still successful in the North of Europe. He possesses all Westphalia, Lower Saxony, and Lusatia, as well as Upper Saxony, Holstein excepted. It seems, also, that our negotiation with Britain has failed. If so, the wise men at Washington will have troublesome work.”
June 26th, Morris, having just finished reading the fourth volume of Chief Justice Marshall’s history, took occasion to write to the author of the pleasure he had found in it, adding, “I cannot refrain from expressing to you my grateful sense of the kindness with which you have mentioned my name.” The letter continues: “In approving highly your character of Washington, permit me to add that few men of such steady, persevering industry ever existed, and perhaps no one who so completely commanded himself. Thousands have learned to restrain their passions, though few among them had to contend with passions so violent. But the self-command to which I allude was of higher grade. He could, at the dictate of reason, control his will and command himself to act. Others may have acquired a portion of the same authority; but who could, like Washington, at any moment command the energies of his mind to a cheerful exertion? After citing his letter to the Emperor of Germany, you say it remains unascertained how far it operated in mitigating the rigor of Lafayette’s confinement, or obtaining his liberation. Permit me to trouble you with some facts relating to that affair. At Vienna, in October, 1796, I was asked by a confidential friend of the Emperor’s, Prime Minister Baron de Thugut being present, whether it was true (as reported) that I was charged with a mission from Congress to ask the liberty of Lafayette. I laughed at the question, and, assuring the questioner there was no truth in the report, expressed my opinion that it was a folly to detain him. A conversation on the subject ensued in which, without contesting the right of the Emperor to keep Lafayette and his companions in prison, if he deemed it needful to the public safety, I urged that, whatever might have been intended had the French Revolution been crushed in the first campaign, there were now so many who participated in shedding the blood of Louis XVI. that, even if France were conquered, it would be impossible to execute the prisoners at Olmütz. Of course there was no object in keeping them, and it worked injury to the Allies by uniting the French nation. Some time after, I received a letter from Madame de Montagu, Madame de Lafayette’s sister, mentioning the harsh treatment she experienced. I thereupon asked an interview of the Baron de Thugut, without mentioning any definite object, and saw him by appointment the 18th of December. We had a long conversation on public affairs, and discussed sundry things which appeared to me advantageous to His Majesty. The Baron gave me his thanks, and then I put in his hands Madame de Montagu’s letter. After reading it he indignantly contradicted the account of ill-treatment to M. and Madame de Lafayette, and expressed a wish that they had never had anything to do with him. I seized the occasion to observe that unquestionably the changes which had happened since he was made prisoner rendered it difficult to say what course should now be pursued, because the same spirit which asked why he was confined might ask why he was not liberated. Since, however, he must sooner or later be released, the sooner it was done the better; therefore I permitted myself to ask that it be done immediately. He told me he would probably be discharged at the peace. I told him that of this I never doubted, and had ventured to assure his friends that it must be so. ‘But consider, I pray you, monsieur le baron, that you will then get nothing by his freedom, whereas now you may turn it to account.’ I then assigned reasons why it would produce a good effect, not only in France but in England. ‘If (said he) England will ask for him, we shall be very glad to get rid of him in that way, and they may turn him loose in London.’ I knew that nothing would be done about it in England, for I had taken occasion to suggest the matter to Lord Grenville in December, 1795, who told me there were strong prejudices against him. I therefore told M. de Thugut I thought it improbable the British Minister would touch this matter unless he should suggest a wish for their interference, and presumed that he would make no such suggestion. There appeared to me, however, two modes in which the affair might be managed: one, that on the receipt of good news several prisons should be opened, and among them that of Olmütz; the other, that liberty should be given to M. de Lafayette and his companions as a favor to the United States, which (in that view of the subject) I presumed to ask in their name. Next day I enclosed to the Baron a letter for Madame de Lafayette, and again pressed for the release of her husband. I left Vienna the 10th of January, 1797, and learned at Hamburg, in the September following, that these prisoners were, by order of the Imperial Court to be delivered up to Mr. Parish (supposed to be) the American Consul, which place he had filled with advantage to our country and honor to himself, but (on representations from the French Republic) had been superseded. The 27th of that month, on adjusting with the Imperial Minister the manner in which Lafayette should be delivered over to Mr. Parish, M. de Thugut’s letter was communicated, and that stated expressly that M. de Lafayette was not liberated at the instance of France, but merely to show the Emperor’s consideration for the United States of America.
“On the 4th of October I was present when M. Buol de Schauenstein, the Imperial Minister at Hamburg, delivered M. de Lafayette into the hands of John Parish, Esq., as Consul for the United States of America. Notwithstanding this, it appeared to me that M. de Lafayette chose to consider himself as freed by the influence of General Bonaparte, and I did not choose to contest the matter, because, believing my applications at Vienna had procured his liberty, it would have looked like claiming acknowledgments. Had I known of the President’s letter I should certainly have connected with it the manner in which he was delivered over, and drawn the natural inference.”
“We are all gaping for news from the North of Europe,” Morris wrote to John Parish the 1st of July. “A victory there would go far to decide the fate of all nations, and make an epoch in the history of mankind. I cannot cease to wonder at what I see. Great Britain has an army, arms, ammunition, and provision. Is it possible the ministers of that country should not have seen that a re-enforcement of thirty to fifty thousand men, with an abundant supply of forage and provisions, should have enabled the Swedes to march from Stralsund to Berlin and intercept the supplies and re-enforcements destined for the French armies in Poland and Silesia? Can it have escaped the view of intelligent men that vigorous operations in the rear of Napoleon would be seconded by a considerable part of Germany? Is it not evident that his army, deprived of recruits and provisions, must have sunk beneath the force now opposed to him? Pusillanimity might indeed say that he would detach a superior corps or fall back with his whole army. But to make such detachment would have exposed him to immediate ruin, and to fall back without magazines, especially of forage, was literally impossible. Truly, my friend, this skirmishing at Alexandria and Constantinople is a poor expedient. If the Russians are beaten, Napoleon dictates his own terms. If they are victorious, Turks and Persians must submit to the law of Alexander. But I say no more. God’s will be done. We are occupied here in trying Burr. Much time and breath have already been expended to little purpose. He shall not be prejudged by me, but the effort to keep back information from the grand jury will convince many that he is afraid. But guilt and fear being closely connected, the proof of one induces belief in the other.”
Ever solicitous for the welfare of the French exiles whom he knew, and fully persuaded that they might learn to content themselves, at least for a time, on American soil, Morris lost no opportunity to place before them the advantages of the climate, the hospitalities of Morrisania, and, above all, the quiet and rest from wars and rumors of wars which awaited them in the United States.
Notwithstanding her advanced age of thirty-five years, Madame de Staël was almost induced to trust her life to the sea, by his persuasive eloquence, for, wrote Morris to her in August of this year:
“Puisqu’il n’y a de France que Paris et que l’on vous en défend l’entrée, il me semble qu’il ne vous reste qu’à choisir une autre patrie. Or, vous ne vous déciderez pas à devenir Suisse. Le pays est très beau, sans doute, et ses habitants sont très courageux. On peut en dire du bien, beaucoup de bien, mais, après tout, je ne crois pas qu’il vous convienne d’y passer vos jours. Napoléon va toujours grand train, de sorte que, s’il ne bronche pas, toute l’Europe désormais sera France, à l’exception des Isles Britanniques, où (faute de pont) il est difficile de faire passer les armées impériales. Ainsi, pour n’être plus Française, il vous faudra devenir Anglaise ou Américaine. Mais la société anglaise est un peu trop froide. D’ailleurs, lorsqu’il s’agit de passer la mer, soit pour venir ici soit pour aller en Angleterre, ce n’est qu’une question de plus ou de moins. Ainsi, madame, je me flatte qu’au printemps prochain vous ferez le voyage d’Amérique. A cet effet, à la mi-avril vous vous embarquerez à Nantes, avec monsieur votre fils, pour New York. Aussitôt arrivée, vous viendrez ici prendre du laitage et vous rafraîchir. Au commencement de juillet vous vous mettrez en route pour voir vos terres et celles d’autres. Vous reviendrez à la mi-septembre vous reposer de vos fatigues, cueillir des pêches, faire des promenades, des vers, des romans—enfin, tout ce qu’il vous plaira. Lorsque mon hermitage aura perdu ses attraits, vous vous établirez en ville où, à l’aide d’un bon cuisinier, vous ferez très bonne chère. On s’y amuse, comme ailleurs, à digérer, dire de bons mots, médire du prochain et le reste. Au bout du compte, madame, la vie se ressemble partout. Partout les circonstances y sont pour quelque chose; le reste dépend de la tournure de l’esprit, de la manière de voir les objets, de l’art de s’occuper, de l’amitié enfin, dont les sentiments nous attachent à notre existence et en banissent l’ennuie. Vous vous moquerez, peut-être, d’un tableau où, parmi les agréments de la vie humaine, on ne voit guère la figure de l’amour. Eh bien! vous n’avez qu’à l’y mettre. Agréez, je vous prie, madame, l’hommage de mon respect et de mon sincère attachement. God bless us!”∗
To his much admired friend, Madame Foucault, then living at Plessis, whither the Duke of Orleans had also gone and settled himself, to aid his relations in the management of the domain, Morris wrote in August, thanking her for news of herself and the details of her occupations. “Elles sont essentielles au bonheur,” he continued. “L’homme s’ennuie du bien et se blase sur les plaisirs. S’il faut parler de l’être chétif qui s’appelle moi, vous saurez que je relève d’un accès de goutte. Voilà treize ans écoulés depuis qu’elle m’a fait visite pour la première fois. Je n’ai point, comme alors, une amie qui m’en console; le souvenir m’en sera toujours précieux. . . . Quant à mes occupations, je suis cultivateur; je m’isole autant que possible des affaires, et je travaille pour ne plus travailler. Illusion douce! espérance trompeuse! C’est la fable d’Ixion, qui embrassa un nuage au lieu de Junon. Reste à savoir si le nuage n’est pas préférable à une déesse du caractère acariâtre et jaloux dont les poëtes nous ont dépeint Sa Majesté Impériale des cieux. Adieu, madame, donnez-moi souvent de vos nouvelles, quand ce ne serait que deux lignes pour dire: ‘J’existe, et je pense à mon ami.’ Il vous aime toujours.”∗
In the autumn came the news of the victory of Napoleon at Friedland on the 14th of June, of the successes of the French armies, of Europe subjugated “from the British seas across prostrate Germany to the distant verge of the Russian Empire.” “Voilà donc la dernière main mise au nouvel arrangement de l’Europe,” Morris wrote to his friend Count Woronzow, at London, September 4th; “à moins,” he goes on to say, “que Napoléon ne s’avise de donner le Portugal à l’Espagne.† Les raisonnements politiques se réduisent maintenant à des calculs sur la vie de l’Empereur corse. La Confédération du Rhin, si on a le bon esprit d’en faire un corps d’etats, et non une anarchie comme la ci-devant Confédération germanique, deviendra le frein de la France et le salut du monde. Que l’on mette à sa tête un grand homme, en y ajoutant l’Alsace, tout est sauvé. Ah! la belle résidence que Frankfort-sur-le-Main! et la belle armée que 25,000 Allemands bien vêtus, bien nourris, bien disciplinés! Il me semble que tout ce que l’on pourra faire pour l’Angleterre dans le moment actuel, sera de persuader à Napoléon d’incorporer les Pays-Bas (ci-devant autrichiens) avec le royaume de Hollande.
“Adieu, mon cher comte, pensez quelquefois à un homme qui vous a voué, pour la vie, l’attachement le plus respectueux et le plus vrai.”∗
The following letter to the Marquis of Stafford, written on September 14th, is not without some of the same fire and force that so strongly characterized Morris’s thoughts and expressions during the early days of the American Revolution.
“It is now, my lord, I believe, seventeen years since I took the liberty of mentioning to your lordship my opinion that, if the French Revolution was not arrested in its progress, it would become dangerous and perhaps fatal to the liberties of Europe. Your lordship, admitting that France might (as I supposed) pass through anarchy to a military despotism, did me the honor to observe that wise alliances would set a bound to her power. To this I permitted myself to reply that it might be difficult to find a Marlborough and Eugene; that, when found, it would be more difficult to prevent discord between them. My mind was then filled with sinister forebodings, and although I have occasionally forced myself from the dreary precincts of reflection into the more cheerful regions of imagination, reason, stubborn and unyielding, has always brought me back. I have never indeed doubted the physical power of Europe to confine France within safe limits, but I have not been able to discover the moral energies needful to employ that power with effect.
“I took the liberty of mentioning this subject to your lordship at that early period because I thought the occasion pressing, and because Great Britain seemed more deeply interested than any other power; having, in effect, more to lose, and being the object at which the blows of France would be specially directed. Much of what I feared is realized. You stand alone, and those who ought to side with you keep aloof, are awed, and subdued. It gives me pain, my lord, to see that, in this dangerous moment when the energy and talents of your country should be cultivated to a point, there is a divergency of efforts and views which may bring the government into disrespect and impair its authority. It would be a task both useless and odious to mark the mistakes which have been made. One thing, however, I must notice. If your affairs with this country had been well managed we should now, in all probability, be your firm and useful ally. As it is, you have duped our feeble administration in a commercial treaty, and, should it be ratified, you will gain advantages which, however flattering to your merchants, are not worth a rush when placed in competition with your great political interest. I long since told your lordship that you should have here a man of high rank and great talents; permit me to add that he should be invested with great latitude of power. The rest would follow.
“But the most material object now is to form an administration sufficient to take charge of you. I have no apprehension that, in this year or the next, a serious invasion of your island can be made with effect; but a tottering administration may patch up a truce (and call it a peace) by which Flanders will remain an integral part of France. Your safety is, I believe, from that moment committed. The annexation of the Low Lands to Holland would be better, because, although the same family might occupy both thrones, national interest will prove too strong for family feeling. Whether you make a miserable peace or carry on a fatiguing war, much is to be apprehended; but more in the former than in the latter case, because it is doubtful whether your constitution can resist a licentious spirit aided by French intrigue. If you are subdued by force of arms, which God forbid, rank and landed property, though impaired, will not be destroyed; but either conquest or revolution would obliterate your funded debt. Indeed, I apprehend that a continuance of the war will injure that species of property. When, looking across the Atlantic, I see such prodigious power and talents on one side and on the other—
it strikes cold to my heart. Indeed, my lord, it angers me that you should strive to acquire distant possessions when necessity calls for a concentration of force. Of what use Monte Video, Ceylon, the Cape, or Egypt, should a French army land in Yorkshire. According to my poor comprehension, your conquests are not worth half the cost of making, nor one-tenth the risk of defending them. That counting-house policy which sees nothing but money, thinks of nothing but money, values nothing but money, is a poor, short-sighted, half-witted, mean, and miserable thing—as far removed from wisdom as a monkey from a man.
“Perhaps Bonaparte will give you something convenient in Europe for what you have taken from Spain and Holland; especially if Gibraltar, which is useless, be given up, and Malta, which may become useful, retained. If, instead of trying to possess yourselves of everyone’s colonies, you would persuade everyone to have colonies, each would be exposed to your power; but, at the rate you go on, your fleet as a means of offence will be a nullity. It will, I know, be said that by extending your possessions you extend your commerce, and thereby increase your means of revenue. But the truth of these assertions may well be questioned, and, even if admitted, is not conclusive, because there are other circumstances of important influence. That, by holding a post on the River of Plate, you may enable Spanish colonists to consume British goods cheaper than before is true, and that your merchants may gain on their first adventures shall be admitted, although it remains to be proved; but that your manufacturers will gain is not true, because they will supply the merchant trading to Buenos Ayres on the same terms they formerly supplied the merchant trading to Cadiz. Thus the national advantage which is suggested does not exist, and that which your merchants expect will hardly be realized. Thus the profit from distant possessions is more than problematical, and the cost of defending them is certain; your taxes, your seamen and soldiers, however and wherever expended, must be levied at home.
“In the spring of the year 1790, while I was soliciting your ministers to surrender some posts detained within our limits, I found that a strong opposition was made on account of the fur-trade. I observed to Mr. Pitt and the Duke of Leeds that it was a matter of indifference to Britain by what hands that trade should be carried on, because, in every contingency, the goods for the Indians would be purchased, and the furs sold, in England. The stress laid on the supposed advantages of your trade to Canada led me to inquire into its value, and I learned, from good authority, that your civil and military establishment cost a little, though very little, more than the gross sales of your imports from that country. This is one instance of the value of foreign possessions for the purposes of trade; and I much fear, my lord, that your India Company, when its accounts are wound up, will present another of the same sort and of imposing magnitude. Sometimes I suppose you to have lost everything except your European islands, and I hold you then totus, teres atque rotundus— in condition to bid the world a proud defiance. Sometimes I suppose that, closely allied to America, the old continent, isolated from the commercial world, were by your act deprived of your manufactures, and then, behold the proudest among them, literally sans culottes, offering carte blanche to obtain peace and clothing.
“But what, you will say, is the object of this tedious epistle from another world? It is to recommend that your lordship and the men who, like you, have a right to command attention should unite firmly together and put the political talents of your country, without distinction of party, in possession of power. Make a general real reform, concentre your force—in short, do what is needful to save yourselves and preserve what is left of liberty in the world. But, should your patriot efforts be unavailing and the demon of discord prevail, make timely provision out of Great Britain for events which must happen. One hundred thousand pounds, well employed in this country, would purchase from two to three hundred thousand acres of land, which, in twenty to thirty years, would rent for twenty thousand pounds. Money well secured will produce here six per cent. interest regularly paid. This, as the merchants say, for your government; by which they mean, information. I will not apologize for this letter, because, if it be not its own apology, I can make none, and therefore will not give you the trouble of perusing or myself of making the lame attempt. I detain your lordship but a moment longer, to express the hope that no assurances can be necessary of my readiness to obey your commands in any thing or in any way I can be useful. Assure your amiable lady of my constant respect, and believe me, my lord, with sincere esteem.”
[∗]“If I were only twenty-five instead of thirty-five years old, I think that I would visit you.” You believe me, then, to be only fit for the society of young ladies. Kindly persuade yourself of the contrary. Believe, also, that the age of reason is the best age for travelling; one derives greater profit, one risks less.
[∗]Translation.—Since there is for you no France outside of Paris, and since access to that city is forbidden you, it seems to me that you have nothing left but to choose another fatherland. I am sure, however, that you will never decide to become a Swiss. There is no doubt that the country is very beautiful, and its inhabitants most courageous; there is much good to be said of it, but, all the same, I hardly think that you can be induced to spend your life there. Besides, Napoleon is going on at such a rate that, if he does not recoil, all Europe will soon be France, with the exception of the British Islands, which, for want of a bridge, the imperial armies cannot reach. Thus, ceasing to be French, you will have to become English or American. Now English society is a little too cold, and, besides, if you have to cross the sea at all, either to go to England or to come here, it all reduces itself to a question of a shorter or longer voyage. Therefore, madame, I flatter myself that next spring you will cross over to America. To that end you will embark, about the middle of April, at Nantes, with your son, for New York. Upon arriving, you will come straight here, to begin a refreshing milk-diet. About the beginning of July you will start on a tour of inspection over your estates and other people’s. You will return to us in the middle of September, to rest from your fatigues, to pluck our peaches, to take walks, to write verses, novels; in a word, to do all you care for. When my hermitage shall have lost its attractiveness you will settle in town, where, a good cook helping, you will keep a dainty table. There, as everywhere else, they manage to spend the time digesting, cracking jokes, gossiping, and so forth. After all, madame, life is about the same all the world over. Everywhere circumstances have something to do with it, the rest depends on the turn of mind, on the manner of considering things, on the art of occupying one’s self; finally, on friendship, the ties of which bind us to life and rob it of its wearisomeness. You will perhaps laugh at this sketch, in which, among the pleasures of life, the figure of love has no place. Well, place it in the picture yourself. I beg that you will accept, madame, the homage of my respect and of my sincere attachment.
[∗]Translation.—Occupations are essential to happiness. Man gets weary of doing good, and tired of his pleasures; if I may be allowed to speak of that weakling, my own self, you must know that I am just recovering from an access of gout. It was thirteen years ago that gout paid me its first call. I have not now, as I had then, a friend to console me; I will keep her remembrance ever green. As for my occupations, I am a farmer; I remain as far away as possible from political affairs, and I work so as not to have to work any more. Pleasant illusion! deceitful hope! It is the fable of Ixion, embracing a cloud instead of Juno. Perhaps, after all, the cloud was better than the goddess, if she really had the jealous and cross-grained temper the poets have attributed to her Imperial Majesty of the Heavens. Good-by, madame, let me hear often from you, were it only to send me two lines saying: ‘I exist, and I think of my friend.’ He loves you always.
[†]In October, 1807, France and Spain, in the treaty of Fontainebleau, agreed to divide Portugal between them, and Napoleon dethroned the House of Braganza.
[∗]Translation.—So the finishing touch has been put to the new arrangement of Europe . . . unless Napoleon should decide to give Portugal to Spain. Political conjectures all centre upon calculating the probable life of the Corsican Emperor. The Confederation of the Rhine—if they have the good sense to make of it a body of States, and not an anarchy, as was the defunct German Confederation—will put a brake upon France, and prove the salvation of the world. Let them add Alsace and place a great man at the head of it all, and everything will be saved. Oh! what a fine residence is Frankfort-on-the-Main, and what a fine army could be formed out of 25,000 Germans, well dressed, well nourished, well disciplined. It seems to me that all that could be done for England, just now, would be to persuade Napoleon to incorporate the (late Austrian) Netherlands with the Kingdom of Holland.