The Writings of
Thomas Jefferson

editor H.A. Washington
New York :  H.W. Derby
To Doctor Joseph Willard.
Paris, March 24, 1789.


I have been lately honored with your letter of September the 24th, 1788, accompanied by a diploma for a Doctorate of Laws, which the University of Harvard has been pleased to confer on me.  Conscious how little I merit it, I am the more sensible of their goodness and indulgence to a stranger, who has had no means of serving or making himself known to them.  I beg you to return them my grateful thanks, and to assure them that this notice from so eminent a seat of science, is very precious to me.

The most remarkable publications we have had in France, for a year or two past, are the following :  Les Voyages d’Anacharsis par l’Abbé Barthelemi, seven volumes, octavo.  This is a very elegant digest of whatever is known of the Greeks;  useless, indeed, to him who has read the original authors, but very proper for one who reads modern languages only.  The works of the King of Prussia.  The Berlin edition is in sixteen volumes, octavo.  It is said to have been gutted at Berlin;  and here it has been still more mangled.  There are one or two other editions published abroad, which pretend to have rectified the maltreatment both of Berlin and Paris.  Some time will be necessary to settle the public mind, as to the best edition.

Montignot has given us the original Greek, and a French translation of the seventh book of Ptolemy’s great work, under the title of "Etat des Etoiles fixes au second Siecle," in quarto.  He has given the designation of the same stars by Flamstead and Beyer, and their position in the year 1786.  A very remarkable work is the "Mechanique Analytique" of Le Grange, in quarto.  He is allowed to be the greatest mathematician now living, and his personal worth is equal to his science.  The object of his work is to reduce all the principles of mechanics to the single one of the equilibrium, and to give a simple formula applicable to them all.  The subject is treated in the algebraic method, without diagrams to assist the conception.  My present occupations not permitting me to read anything which requires a long and undisturbed attention, I am not able to give you the character of this work from my own examination.  It has been received with great approbation in Europe.  In Italy, the works of Spallanzani on digestion and generation, are valuable.  Though, perhaps, too minute, and therefore tedious, he has developed some useful truths, and his book is well worth attention.  It is in four volumes, octavo.  Clavigero, an Italian also, who has resided thirty-six years in Mexico, has given us a history of that country, which certainly merits more respect than any other work on the same subject.  He corrects many errors of Dr. Robertson, and though sound philosophy will disapprove many of his ideas, we may still consider it as an useful work, and assuredly the best we possess on the same subject.  It is in four thin volumes, small quarto.  De La Lande has not yet published a fifth volume.

The chemical dispute about the conversion and reconversion of air and water, continues still undecided.  Arguments and authorities are so balanced, that we may still safely believe, as our fathers did before us, that these principles are distinct.  A schism of another kind, has taken place among the chemists.  A particular set of them here have undertaken to remodel all the terms of the science, and to give to every substance a new name, the composition, and especially the termination of which, shall define the relation in which it stands to other substances of the same family.  But the science seems too much in its infancy as yet for this reformation :  because, in fact, the reformation of this year must be reformed again the next year, and so on, changing the names of substances as often as new experiments develop properties in them undiscovered before.  The new nomenclature has, accordingly, been already proved to need numerous and important reformations.  Probably it will not prevail.  It is espoused by the minority only here, and by very few, indeed, of the foreign chemists.  It is particularly rejected in England.

In the arts, I think two of our countrymen have presented the most important inventions.  Mr. Paine, the author of "Common Sense," has invented an iron bridge, which promises to be cheaper by a great deal than stone, and to admit of a much greater arch.  He supposes it may be ventured for an arch of five hundred feet.  He has obtained a patent for it in England, and is now executing the first experiment with an arch of between ninety and one hundred feet.  Mr. Rumsey has also obtained a patent for his navigation by the force of steam, in England, and is soliciting a similar one here.  His principal merit is in the improvement of the boiler, and, instead of the complicated machinery of oars and paddles, proposed by others, the substitution of so simple a thing as the reaction of a stream of water on his vessel.  He is building a sea vessel at this time in England, and she will be ready for an experiment in May.  He has suggested a great number of mechanical improvements in a variety of branches;  and upon the whole, is the most original and the greatest mechanical genius I have ever seen.  The return of La Peyrouse (whenever that shall happen) will probably add to our knowledge in Geography, Botany, and Natural History.  What a field have we at our doors to signalize ourselves in !  The Botany of America is far from being exhausted, its Mineralogy is untouched, and its Natural History or Zoology, totally mistaken and misrepresented.  As far as I have seen, there is not one single species of terrestrial birds common to Europe and America, and I question if there be a single species of quadrupeds.  (Domestic animals are to be excepted.)  It is for such institutions as that over which you preside so worthily, Sir, to do justice to our country, its productions and its genius.  It is the work to which the young men, whom you are forming, should lay their hands.  We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring them the precious blessing of liberty.  Let them spend theirs in showing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue;  and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free.  Nobody wishes more warmly for the success of your good exhortations on this subject, than he who has the honor to be, with sentiments of great esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient humble servant.

To J. Sarsfield.
Paris, April 3, 1789.


I could not name to you the day of my departure from Paris, because I do not know it.  I have not yet received my congé, though I hope to receive it soon, and to leave this some time in May, so that I may be back before the winter.

Impost is a duty paid on any imported article, in the moment of its importation, and, of course, it is collected in the seaports only.  Excise is a duty on any article, whether imported or raised at home, and paid in the hands of the consumer or retailer :  consequently, it is collected through the whole country.  These are the true definitions of these words as used in England, and in the greater part of the United States.  But in Massachusetts, they have perverted the word excise to mean a tax on all liquors, whether paid in the moment of importation or at a later moment, and on nothing else.  So that in reading the debates of the Massachusetts convention, you must give this last meaning to the word excise.

Rotation is the change of officers required by the laws at certain epochs, and in a certain order.  Thus, in Virginia, our justices of the peace are made sheriffs one after the other, each remaining in office two years, and then yielding it to his next brother in order of seniority.  This is the just and classical meaning of the word.  But in America, we have extended it (for want of a proper word) to all cases of officers who must be necessarily changed at a fixed epoch, though the successor be not pointed out in any particular order, but comes in by free election.  By the term rotation in office, then we mean an obligation on the holder of that office to go out at a certain period.  In our first Confederation, the principle of rotation was established in the office of President of Congress, who could serve but one year in three, and in that of a member of Congress, who could serve but three years in six.

I believe all the countries in Europe determine their standard of money in gold as well as silver.  Thus, the laws of England direct that a pound Troy of gold, of twenty-two carats fine, shall be cut into forty-four and a half guineas, each of which shall be worth twenty-one and a half shillings, that is, into 956¾ shillings.  This establishes the shilling at 5.518 grains of pure gold.  They direct that a pound of silver, consisting of 111/10 ounces of pure silver and 9/10 of an ounce alloy, shall be cut into sixty two shillings.  This establishes the shilling at 85.93 grains of pure silver, and, consequently, the proportion of gold to silver as 85.93 to 5.518, or as 15.57 to 1.  If this be the true proportion between the value of gold and silver at the general market of Europe, then the value of the shilling, depending on two standards, is the same, whether a payment be made in gold or in silver.  But if the proportion of the general market at Europe be as fifteen to one, then the Englishman who owes a pound weight of gold at Amsterdam, if he sends the pound of gold to pay it, sends 1043.72 shillings;  if he sends fifteen pounds of silver, he sends only 1030.5 shillings;  if he pays half in gold and half in silver, he pays only 1037.11 shillings.  And this medium between the two standards of gold and silver, we must consider as furnishing the true medium value of the shilling.  If the parliament should now order the pound of gold (of one-twelfth alloy as before) to be put into a thousand shillings instead of nine hundred and fifty-six and three-fourths, leaving the silver as it is, the medium or true value of the shilling would suffer a change of half the difference;  and in the case before stated, to pay a debt of a pound weight of gold, at Amsterdam, if he sent the pound weight of gold, he would send 1090.9 shillings;  if he sent fifteen pounds of silver, he would send 1030.5 shillings;  if half in gold and half in silver, he would send 1060.7 shillings;  which shows that this parliamentary operation would reduce the value of the shilling in the proportion of 1060.7 to 1037.11.

Now this is exactly the effect of the late change in the quantity of gold contained in your louis.  Your marc d’argent fin is cut into 53.45 livres (fifty-three livres and nine sous), the marc de l’or fin was cut, heretofore, by law, into 784.6 livres (seven hundred and eighty-four livres and twelve sous);  gold was to silver then as 14.88 to 1.  And if this was different from the proportion at the markets of Europe, the true value of your livre stood half way between the two standards.  By the ordinance of October the 30th, 1785, the marc of pure gold has been cut into 828.5 livres.  If your standard had been in gold alone, this would have reduced the value of your livre in the proportion of 828.5 to 784.6.  But as you had a standard of silver as well as gold, the true standard is the medium between the two;  consequently the value of the livre is reduced only one-half the difference, that is, as 806.6 to 784.6, which is very nearly three per cent.  Commerce, however, has made a difference of four per cent., the average value of the pound sterling, formerly twenty-four livres, being now twenty-five livres.  Perhaps some other circumstance has occasioned an addition of one per cent. to the change of your standard.

I fear I have tired you by these details.  I did not mean to be so lengthy when I began, I beg you to consider them as an appeal to your judgment, which I value, and from which I will expect a correction, if they are wrong.

I have the honor to be, with very great esteem and attachment, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

To the Marquis de la Fayette.
Paris, May 6, 1789.

My Dear Friend

As it becomes more and more possible that the Noblesse will go wrong, I become uneasy for you.  Your principles are decidedly with the Tiers Etat, and your instructions against them.  A complaisance to the latter on some occasions, and an adherence to the former on others, may give an appearance of trimming between the two parties, which may lose you both.  You will, in the end, go over wholly to the Tiers Etat, because it will be impossible for you to live in a constant sacrifice of your own sentiments to the prejudices of the Noblesse.  But you would be received by the Tiers Etat at any future day, coldly, and without confidence.  This appears to me the moment to take at once that honest and manly stand with them which your own principles dictate.  This will win their hearts forever, be approved by the world, which marks and honors you as the man of the people, and will be an eternal consolation to yourself.  The Noblesse, and especially the Noblesse of Auvergne, will always prefer men who will do their dirty work for them.  You are not made for that.  They will, therefore, soon drop you, and the people, in that case, will perhaps not take you up.  Suppose a scission should take place.  The Priests and Nobles will secede, the nation will remain in place, and, with the King, will do its own business.  If violence should be attempted, where will you be ?  You cannot then take side with the people in opposition to your own vote, that very vote which will have helped to produce the scission.  Still less can you array yourself against the people.  That is impossible.  Your instructions are, indeed, a difficulty.  But to state this at its worst it is only a single difficulty, which a single effort surmounts.  Your instructions can never embarrass you a second time, whereas an acquiescence under them will reproduce greater difficulties every day, and without end.  Besides, a thousand circumstances offer as many justifications of your departure from your instructions.  Will it be impossible to persuade all parties that (as for good legislation two Houses are necessary) the placing the privileged classes together in one House, and the unprivileged in another, would be better for both than a scission ?  I own, I think it would.  People can never agree without some sacrifices;  and it appears but a moderate sacrifice in each party, to meet on this middle ground.  The attempt to bring this about might satisfy your instructions, and a failure in it would justify your siding with the people, even to those who think instructions are laws of conduct.—Forgive me, my dear friend, if my anxiety for you makes me talk of things I know nothing about.  You must not consider this as advice.  I know you and myself too well to presume to offer advice.  Receive it merely as the expression of my uneasiness, and the effusion of that sincere friendship with which I am, my dear Sir, yours affectionately.

To William Carmichael.
Paris, May 8, 1789.

Dear Sir,—Your favor of January the 26th to March the 27th, is duly received, and I thank you for the interesting papers it contained.  The answer of Don Ulloa, however, on the subject of the canal through the American isthmus, was not among them, though mentioned to be so.  If you have omitted it through accident, I shall thank you for it at some future occasion, as I wish much to understand that subject thoroughly.  Our American information comes down to the 16th of March.  There had not yet been members enough assembled of the new Congress to open the tickets.  They expected to do it in a day or two.  In the meantime, it was said from all the States, that their vote had been unanimous for General Washington, and a good majority in favor of Mr. Adams, who is certainly, therefore, Vice-President.  The new government would be supported by very cordial and very general dispositions in its favor from the people.  I have not yet seen a list of the new Congress.  This delay in the meeting of the new government, has delayed the determination on my petition for leave of absence.  However, I expect to receive it every day, and am in readiness to sail the instant I receive it, so that this is probably the last letter I shall write you hence till my return.  While there, I shall avail Government of the useful information I have received from you, and shall not fail to profit of any good occasion which may occur, to show the difference between your real situation and what it ought to be.  I consider Paris and Madrid as the only two points at which Europe and America should touch closely and that a connection at these points should be fostered.

We have had, in this city, a very considerable riot, in which about one hundred people have been probably killed.  It was the most unprovoked, and is, therefore, justly, the most unpitied catastrophe of that kind I ever knew.  Nor did the wretches know what they wanted, except to do mischief.  It seems to have had no particular connection with the great national question now in agitation.  The want of bread is very seriously dreaded through the whole kingdom.  Between twenty and thirty ship loads of wheat and flour has already arrived from the United States, and there will be about the same quantity of rice sent from Charleston to this country directly, of which about half has arrived.  I presume that between wheat and rice, one hundred ship loads may be counted on in the whole from us.  Paris consumes about a ship load a day (say two hundred and fifty tons).  The total supply of the West Indies for this year, rests with us, and there is almost a famine in Canada and Nova Scotia.—The States General were opened the day before yesterday.  Viewing it as an opera, it was imposing;  as a scene of business, the King’s speech was exactly what it should have been, and very well delivered;  not a word of the Chancellor’s was heard by anybody, so that, as yet, I have never heard a single guess at what it was about.  Mr. Necker’s was as good as such a number of details would permit it to be.  The picture of their resources was consoling, and generally plausible.  I could have wished him to have dwelt more on those great constitutional reformations, which his "Rapport au roy" had prepared us to expect.  But they observe, that these points were proper for the speech of the Chancellor.  We are in hopes, therefore, they were in that speech, which, like the Revelations of St. John, were no revelations at all.  The Noblesse, on coming together, show that they are not as much reformed in their principles as we had hoped they would be.  In fact, there is real danger of their totally refusing to vote by persons.  Some found hopes on the lower clergy, which constitute four-fifths of the deputies of that order.  If they do not turn the balance in favor of the Tiers Etat, there is real danger of a scission.  But I shall not consider even that event as rendering things desperate.  If the King will do business with the Tiers Etat, which constitutes the nation, it may be well done without Priests or Nobles.—From the best information I can obtain, the King of England’s madness has terminated in an imbecility, which may very possibly be of long continuance.  He is going with his Queen to Germany.  England chained to rest, the other parts of Europe may recover or retain tranquillity.

I have the honor to be, with great and sincere esteem, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

To Lewis Littlepage.
Paris, May 8, 1789.

Dear Sir,—Your favor of February 12th has been duly received, and in exchange for its information, I shall give you that which you desire relative to American affairs.  Those of Europe you can learn from other sources.  All our States acceded unconditionally to the new Constitution, except North Carolina and Rhode Island.  The latter rejects it in toto.  North Carolina neither rejected nor received it, but asked certain amendments before it should receive it.  Her amendments concur with those asked by Virginia, New York and Massachusetts, and consist chiefly in a declaration of rights.  Even the warmest friends to the new form begin to be sensible it wants the security, and it is pretty generally agreed that a declaration of rights shall be added.  New York and Virginia, though they have acceded to this government, are less contented with it than the others.  In New York, it is the effect of the intrigues and influence of Governor Clinton, who it is hoped will be exchanged for a Judge Yates.  In Virginia, it is perhaps the apprehension that the new government will oblige them to pay their debts.  Our letters are as late as the 16th of March.  There were not yet members enough of the new Congress assembled to open the tickets.  It was expected there would be in two or three days.  Information, however, from all the States, gave reason to be satisfied that General Washington was elected unanimously, and Mr. John Adams by a sufficient plurality to ensure his being the Vice-President.  The elections to Congress had been almost entirely in favor of persons well-disposed to the new government, which proves the mass of the people in its favor.  In general, there are the most favorable dispositions to support it, and those heretofore disheartened, now write in great confidence of our affairs.  That spirit of luxury which sprang up at the peace, has given place to a laudable economy.  Home manufactures are encouraged, and the balance last year was greatly on the side of exportation.  The settlement of the Western country has gone on with astonishing rapidity.  A late unaccountable event may slacken by scattering it.  Spain has granted the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi, with a large tract of country on the western side of the river, to Colonel Morgan of New Jersey, to whom great numbers of settlers are flocking over from Kentucky.  While this measure weakens somewhat the United States for the present, it begins our possession of that country considerably sooner than I had expected, and without a struggle till no struggle can be made.  Great crops of corn last year in the United States, and a great demand for it in British and French America, and in Europe.  Remarkable deaths are, General Nelson, and John Bannisters, father and son.  I expect every day to receive a leave of absence for six months, and shall sail within a week after receiving it.  I hope to be back before winter sets in.  I have the honor to be, with very great esteem, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant.

To John Jay.
Paris, May 9, 1789.


Since my letter of March the 1st, by the way of Havre, and those of March the 12th and 15th, by the way of London, no opportunity of writing has occurred, till the present to London.

There are no symptoms of accommodation between the Turks and two empires, nor between Russia and Sweden.  The Emperor was, on the 16th of the last month, expected to die certainly.  He was, however, a little better when the last news came away, so that hopes were entertained of him;  but it is agreed that he cannot get the better of his complaints ultimately, so that his life is not at all counted on.  The Danes profess, as yet, to do no more against Sweden than furnish their stipulated aid.  The agitation of Poland is still violent, though somewhat moderated by the late change in the demeanor of the King of Prussia.  He is much less thrasonic than he was.  This is imputed to the turn which the English politics may be rationally expected to take.  It is very difficult to get at the true state of the British King;  but from the best information we can get, his madness has gone off, but he is left in a state of imbecility and melancholy.  They are going to carry him to Hanover, to see whether such a journey may relieve him.  The Queen accompanies him.  If England should, by this accident, be reduced to inactivity, the southern countries of Europe may escape the present war.  Upon the whole, the prospect for the present year, if no unforeseen accident happens, is, certain peace for the powers not already engaged, a probability that Denmark will not become a principal, and a mere possibility that Sweden and Russia may be accommodated.  The interior disputes of Sweden are so exactly detailed in the Leyden gazette, that I have nothing to add on that subject.

The revolution of this country has advanced thus far, without encountering anything which deserves to be called a difficulty.  There have been riots in a few instances, in three or four different places, in which there may have been a dozen or twenty lives lost.  The exact truth is not to be got at.  A few days ago, a much more serious riot took place in this city, in which it became necessary for the troops to engage in regular action with the mob, and probably about one hundred of the latter were killed.  Accounts vary from twenty to two hundred.  They were the most abandoned banditti of Paris, and never was a riot more unprovoked and unpitied.  They began, under a pretence that a paper manufacturer had proposed in an assembly to reduce their wages to fifteen sous a day.  They rifled his house, destroyed everything in his magazines and shops, and were only stopped in their career of mischief by the carnage above mentioned.  Neither this nor any other of the riots, have had a professed connection with the great national reformation going on.  They are such as have happened every year since I have been here, and as will continue to be produced by common incidents.  The States General were opened on the 4th instant, by a speech from the throne, one by the Garde des Sceaux, and one from Mr. Necker.  I hope they will be printed in time to send you herewith.  Lest they should not, I will observe, that that of Mr. Necker stated the real and ordinary deficit to be fifty-six millions, and that he showed that this could be made up without a new tax, by economies and bonifications which he specified.  Several articles of the latter are liable to the objection, that they are proposed on branches of the revenue, of which the nation has demanded a suppression.  He tripped too lightly over the great articles of constitutional reformation, these being not as clearly enounced in this discourse as they were in his Rapport au roy, which I sent you some time ago.  On the whole, his discourse has not satisfied the patriotic party.  It is now, for the first time, that their revolution is likely to receive a serious check, and begins to wear a fearful appearance.  The progress of light and liberality in the order of the Noblesse, has equalled expectation in Paris only and its vicinities.  The great mass of deputies of that order, which come from the country, show that the habits of tyranny over the people are deeply rooted in them.  They will consent, indeed, to equal taxation;  but five-sixths of that chamber are thought to be, decidedly, for voting by orders;  so that, had this great preliminary question rested on this body, which formed heretofore the sole hope, that hope would have been completely disappointed.  Some aid, however, comes in from a quarter whence none was expected.  It was imagined the ecclesiastical elections would have been generally in favor of the higher clergy;  on the contrary, the lower clergy have obtained five-sixths of these deputations.  These are the sons of peasants, who have done all the drudgery of the service for ten, twenty and thirty guineas a year, and whose oppressions and penury, contrasted with the pride and luxury of the higher clergy, have rendered them perfectly disposed to humble the latter.  They have done it, in many instances, with a boldness they were thought insusceptible of.  Great hopes have been formed, that these would concur with the Tiers Etat in voting by persons.  In fact, about half of them seem as yet so disposed;  but the bishops are intriguing, and drawing them over with the address which has ever marked ecclesiastical intrigue.  The deputies of the Tiers Etat seem, almost to a man, inflexibly determined against the vote by orders.  This is the state of parties, as well as can be judged from conversation only, during the fortnight they have been now together.  But as no business has been yet begun, no votes as yet taken, this calculation cannot be considered as sure.  A middle proposition is talked of, to form the two privileged orders into one chamber.  It is thought more possible to bring them into it than the Tiers Etat.  Another proposition is, to distinguish questions, referring those of certain descriptions to a vote by persons, others to a vote by orders.  This seems to admit of endless altercation, and the Tiers Etat manifest no respect for that, or any other modification whatever.  Were this single question accommodated, I am of opinion, there would not occur the least difficulty in the great and essential points of constitutional reformation.  But on this preliminary question the parties are so irreconcilable, that it is impossible to foresee what issue it will have.  The Tiers Etat, as constituting the nation, may propose to do the business of the nation, either with or without the minorities in the Houses of Clergy and Nobles which side with them.  In that case, if the King should agree to it, the majorities in those two Houses would secede, and might resist the tax gatherers.  This would bring on a civil war.  On the other hand, the privileged orders, offering to submit to equal taxation, may propose to the King to continue the government in its former train, resuming to himself the power of taxation.  Here, the tax gatherers might be resisted by the people.  In fine, it is but too possible, that between parties so animated, the King may incline the balance as he pleases.  Happy that he is an honest, unambitious man, who desires neither money nor power for himself;  and that his most operative minister, though he has appeared to trim a little, is still, in the main, a friend to public liberty.

I mentioned to you in a former letter, the construction which our bankers at Amsterdam had put on the resolution of Congress, appropriating the last Dutch loan, by which the money for our captives would not be furnished till the end of the year 1790.  Orders from the board of treasury have now settled this question.  The interest of the next month is to be first paid, and after that, the money for the captives and foreign officers is to be furnished, before any other payment of interest.  This insures it when the next February interest becomes payable.  My representations to them, on account of the contracts I had entered into for making the medals, have produced from them the money of that object, which is lodged in the hands of Mr. Grand.

Mr. Necker, in his discourse, proposes among his bonifications of revenue, the suppressions of our two free ports of Bayonne and L’Orient, which, he says, occasion a loss of six hundred thousand livres annually, to the crown, by contraband.  (The speech being not yet printed, I state this only as it struck my ear when he delivered it.  If I have mistaken it, I beg you to receive this as my apology, and to consider what follows as written on that idea only.)  I have never been able to see that these free ports were worth one copper to us.  To Bayonne our trade never went, and it is leaving L’Orient.  Besides, the right of entrepot is a perfect substitute for the right of free port.  The latter is a little less troublesome only, to the merchants and captains.  I should think, therefore, that a thing so useless to us and prejudicial to them might be relinquished by us, on the common principles of friendship.  I know the merchants of these ports will make a clamor, because the franchise covers their contraband with all the world.  Has Monsieur de Moustier said anything to you on this subject ?  It has never been mentioned to me.  If not mentioned in either way, it is rather an indecent proceeding, considering that this right of free port is founded in treaty.  I shall ask of M. de Montmorin, on the first occasion, whether he has communicated this to you through his ministry;  and if he has not, I will endeavor to notice the infraction to him in such a manner, as neither to reclaim nor abandon the right of free port, but leave our government free to do either.

The gazettes of France and Leyden, as usual, will accompany this.  I am in hourly expectation of receiving from you my leave of absence, and keep my affairs so arranged, that I can leave Paris within eight days after receiving the permission.  I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

To General George Washington.
Paris, May 10, 1789.


I am now to acknowledge the honor of your two letters of Nov. the 27th and Feb. the 13th, both of which have come to hand since my last to you of Dec. the 4th and 5th.  The details you are so good as to give me on the subject of the navigation of the waters of the Potomac and Ohio, are very pleasing to me, as I consider the union of these two rivers, as among the strongest links of connection between the eastern and western sides of our confederacy.  It will, moreover, add to the commerce of Virginia, in particular, all the upper parts of the Ohio and its waters.  Another vast object, and of much less difficulty, is to add, also, all the country on the lakes and their waters.  This would enlarge our field immensely, and would certainly be effected by a union of the upper waters of the Ohio and Lake Erie.  The Big Beaver and Cuyahoga offer the most direct line, and according to information I received from General Hand, and which I had the honor of writing you in the year 1783, the streams in that neighborhood head in lagoons, and the country is flat.  With respect to the doubts which you say are entertained by some, whether the upper waters of Potomac can be rendered capable of navigation on account of the falls and rugged banks, they are answered, by observing, that it is reduced to a maxim, that whenever there is water enough to float a batteau, there may be navigation for a batteau.  Canals and locks may be necessary, and they are expensive, but I hardly know what expense would be too great, for the object in question.  Probably, negotiations with the Indians, perhaps even settlement, must precede the execution of the Cuyahoga canal.  The States of Maryland and Virginia should make a common object of it.  The navigation, again, between Elizabeth River and the Sound, is of vast importance, and in my opinion, it is much better that these should be done at public than private expense.

Though we have not heard of the actual opening of the new Congress, and consequently, have not official information of your election as President of the United States, yet, as there never could be a doubt entertained of it, permit me to express here my felicitations, not to yourself, but to my country.  Nobody who has tried both public and private life, can doubt but that you were much happier on the banks of the Potomac than you will be at New York.  But there was nobody so well qualified as yourself, to put our new machine into a regular course of action;  nobody, the authority of whose name could have so effectually crushed opposition at home, and produced respect abroad.  I am sensible of the immensity of the sacrifice on your part.  Your measure of fame was full to the brim, and, therefore, you have nothing to gain.  But there are cases wherein it is a duty to risk all against nothing, and I believe this was exactly the case.  We may presume, too, according to every rule of probability, that after doing a great deal of good, you will be found to have lost nothing but private repose.

In a letter to Mr. Jay, of the 19th of Nov., I asked a leave of absence to carry my children back to their own country, and to settle various matters of a private nature, which were left unsettled, because I had no idea of being absent so long.  I expected that letter would have been received in time to be decided on by the Government then existing.  I know now that it would arrive when there was no Congress, and consequently, that it must have awaited your arrival at New York.  I hope you found the request not an unreasonable one.  I am excessively anxious to receive the permission without delay, that I may be able to get back before the winter sets in.  Nothing can be so dreadful to me, as to be shivering at sea for two or three months in a winter passage.  Besides, there has never been a moment at which the presence of a minister here could be so well dispensed with, from certainty of no war this summer, and that the government will be so totally absorbed in domestic arrangements, as to attend to nothing exterior.  Mr. Jay will, of course, communicate to you some ciphered letters lately written, and one of this date.  My public letter to him contains all the interesting public details.  I enclose with the present, some extracts of a letter from Mr. Paine, which he desired me to communicate;  your knowledge of the writer will justify my giving you the trouble of these communications, which their interesting nature and his respectability, will jointly recommend to notice.  I am in great pain for the Marquis de La Fayette.  His principles, you know, are clearly with the people;  but having been elected for the Noblesse of Auvergne, they have laid him under express instructions, to vote for the decision by orders and not persons.  This would ruin him with the Tiers Etat, and it is not possible he could continue long to give satisfaction to the Noblesse.  I have not hesitated to press on him to burn his instructions, and follow his conscience as the only sure clue, which will eternally guide a man clear of all doubts and inconsistencies.  If he cannot effect a conciliatory plan, he will surely take his stand manfully at once, with the Tiers Etat.  He will in that case be what he pleases with them, and I am in hopes that base is now too solid to render it dangerous to be mounted on it.  In hopes of being able in the course of the summer, to pay my respects to you personally, in New York, I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect respect and attachment, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

(Extract of the letter from Thomas Paine, referred to in the preceding, to General Washington.]
"London, March the 12th, 1789.

I do not think it is worth while for Congress to appoint any minister at this court.  The greater distance Congress observes on this point, the better.  It will be all money thrown away, to go to any expense about it, at least during the present reign.  I know the nation well, and the line of acquaintance I am in, enables me to judge better on this matter than any other American can judge, especially at a distance.  I believe I am not so much in the good graces of the Marquis of Lansdowne as I used to be.  I do not answer his purpose.  He was always talking of a sort of re-connection of England and America, and my coldness and reserve on this subject checked communication.  I believe he would be a good minister for England, the respect to a better agreement with France.

Same letter continued April 10.

The acts for regulating the trade with America are to be continued as last year.  A paper from the Privy Council respecting the American fly, is before parliament.  I had some conversation with Sir Joseph Banks upon this subject, as he was the person whom the Privy Council referred to.  I told him that the Hessian fly attacked only the green plant, and did not exist in the dry grain.  He said, that with respect to the Hessian fly, they had no apprehension, but it was the weevil they alluded to.  I told him the weevil had always, more or less, been in the wheat countries of America, and that if the prohibition was on that account, it was as necessary fifty or sixty years as now;  that I believed it was only a political maneuvre of the ministry to please the landed interest, as a balance for prohibiting the exportation of wool, to please the manufacturing interest.  He did not reply, and as we are on very sociable terms, I went farther, by saying, the English ought not to complain of the non-payment of debts from America, while they prohibit the means of payment.  I suggest to you a thought on this subject.  The debts due before the war ought to be distinguished from the debts contracted since, and all and every mode of payment and remittance under which they might have been discharged at the time they were contracted, ought to accompany those debts so long as any of them shall continue unpaid, because the circumstances of payment became united with the debt, and cannot be separated by subsequent acts of one side only.  If this was taken up in America, and insisted on as a right coeval with and inseparable from those debts, it would force some of the restrictions here to give way.  While writing this, I am informed that the minister has had a conference with some of the American creditors, and proposed to them to assume the debts, and give them ten shillings in the pound.  The conjecture is, that he means, when the new Congress is established, to demand the payment.  If you are writing to General Washington, it may not be amiss to mention this, and if I hear further on this matter, I will inform you.  But as, being a money matter, it cannot come forward but through parliament, there will be notice given of the business.  This would be a proper time to show, that the British acts since the peace militate against the payment, by narrowing the means by which those debts might have been paid when they were contracted, and which ought to be considered as constituent parts of the contract."

To James Madison.
Paris, May 11, 1789.

Dear Sir,—My last to you was of the 15th of March.  I am now in hourly expectation of receiving my leave of absence.  The delay of it a little longer will endanger the throwing my return into the winter, the very idea of which is horror itself to me.  I am in hopes this is the last letter I shall have the pleasure of writing to you, before my departure.

The madness of the King of England has gone off, but left him in a state of imbecility and melancholy.  They talk of carrying him to Hanover.  If they do, it will be a proof he does not mend, and that they take that measure, to authorize them to establish a regency.  But if he grows better, they will perhaps keep him at home, to avoid the question, who shall be regent ?  As that country cannot be relied on in the present state of its executive, the King of Prussia has become more moderate;  he throws cold water on the fermentation he had excited in Poland.  The King of Sweden will act as nobody, not even himself, can foresee :  because he acts from the caprice of the moment, and because the discontents of his army and nobles may throw him under internal difficulties, while struggling with external ones.  Denmark will probably only furnish its stipulated aid to Russia.  France is fully occupied with internal arrangement.  So that, on the whole, the prospect of this summer is, that the war will continue between the powers actually engaged in the close of the last campaign, and extend to no others;  certainly, it will not extend, this year, to the southern States of Europe.  The revolution of France has gone on with the most unexampled success, hitherto.  There have been some mobs occasioned by the want of bread, in different parts of the kingdom, in which there may have been some lives lost;  perhaps a dozen or twenty.  These had no professed connection generally, with the constitutional revolution.  A more serious riot happened lately in Paris, in which about one hundred of the mob were killed.  This execution has been universally approved, as they seemed to have no view but mischief and plunder.  But the meeting of the States General presents serious difficulties, which it had been hoped the progress of reason would have enabled them to get over.  The nobility of and about Paris, have come over, as was expected, to the side of the people, in the great question of voting by persons or orders.  This had induced a presumption that those of the country were making the same progress, and these form the great mass of the deputies of that order.  But they are found to be where they were centuries ago, as to their disposition to keep distinct from the people, and even to tyrannize over them.  They agree, indeed, to abandon their pecuniary privileges.  The clergy seem, at present much divided.  Five-sixths of that representation consists of the lower clergy, who, being the sons of the peasantry, are very well with the Tiers Etat.  But the Bishops are intriguing, and drawing them over daily.  The Tiers Etat is so firm to vote by persons or to go home, that it is impossible to conjecture what will be the result.  This is the state of parties, as well as we can conjecture from the conversation of the members;  for, as yet, no vote has been given which will enable us to calculate, on certain ground.

Having formerly written to you on the subject of our finances, I enclose you now an abstract of a paper on that subject, which Gouvernur Morris communicated to me.  You will be a better judge of its merit than I am.  It seems to me worthy good attention.—I have a box of books packed for you, which I shall carry to Havre, and send by any ship bound to New York or Philadelphia.  I have been so inexact as to take no list of them before nailing up the box.  Be so good as to do this, and I will take with me my bookseller’s account, which will enable us to make a statement of them.  They are chiefly Encyclopedies, from the twenty-third to the thirtieth livraison.  Paul Jones has desired me to send to yourself and Colonel Carrington each, his bust.  They are packed together in the same box.  There are three other boxes, with two in each, for other gentlemen.  I shall send them all together, and take the liberty of addressing them to you.—I rejoice extremely to hear you are elected, in spite of all cabals.  I fear your post will not permit me to see you but in New York, and consequently but a short time only.  I shall much regret this.

I am, with sentiments of sincere attachment and respect, dear Sir, your friend and servant.

To the Honorable John Jay.
Paris, May 12, 1789.


I am this moment returned from Versailles, and it is the last moment allowed me to write by this occasion.  The Tiers Etat remain unshaken in their resolution to do no business with the other orders, but voting by persons.  The Nobles are equally determined, and by a majority of four-fifths or five-sixths to vote only by orders.  Committees of accommodation, indeed, are appointed, but with little prospect of effect.  Already the ministry of the Nobles began to talk of abandoning their body, and going to take their places among the Tiers.  Perhaps they may be followed by the timid part of their orders, and it might be hoped, by a majority of the Clergy, which still remain undebauched by the bishops.  This would form a States General of the whole Tiers, a majority of the Clergy, and a fraction of the Nobles.  This may be considered, then, as one of the possible issues this matter may take, should reconciliation be impracticable.

I am able to speak now more surely of the situation of the Emperor.  His complaint is pulmonary.  The spitting of blood is from the lungs.  The hemorrage which came on was critical, and relieved him for the moment;  but the relief was momentary only.  There is little expectation he can last long.—The King of England’s voyage to Hanover is spoken of more doubtfully.  This would be an indication that his complaint is better, or, at least, not worse.—I find, on receiving Mr. Necker’s discourse in print that he has not proposed in direct terms to put down our free ports.  The expression is, "on se borne en ce mornent à vous faire observer" &c., &c.  I spoke on the subject to M. de Montmorin to-day, and he says they meant and mean to confer with me on it before my departure.  I spoke to him also to bring Schweighauser’s and De Bree’s affair to a conclusion;  and to Mr. Rayneval on the same subject.  They told me they had just received a letter from the Count de la Luzerne, justifying the detention of our stores :  that they were so much dissatisfied with the principles he advanced, that they should take upon themselves to combat and protest against them, and to insist on a clear establishment of the rule that the property of one sovereign within the dominions of another, is not liable to the territorial jurisdiction.  They have accordingly charged one of their ablest counsels with the preparation of a memoir to establish this point.—I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

To Monsieur Louis de Pontière.
Paris, May 17, 1789.


I am honored with your letter of the 6th instant, and am sincerely sorry that you should experience inconveniences for the want of arrearages due to you from the United States.  I have never ceased to take every measure which could promise to procure to the foreign officers the payment of these arrears.  At present, the matter stands thus :  Congress have agreed to borrow a sum of money in Holland, to enable them to pay the individual demands in Europe.  They have given orders that these arrearages shall be paid out of this money, when borrowed, and certain bankers in Amsterdam are charged to borrow the money.  I am myself of opinion, they will certainly procure the money in the course of the present year;  but it is not for me to affirm this, nor to make any engagement.  The moment the money is ready, it shall be made known to Colonel Gourion, who, at the desire of many of the officers, has undertaken to communicate with me on the subject, and to inform them, from time to time, of the progress of this business.  He will readily answer your letters on this subject.  I depart in a few days for America, but shall leave such instructions here, as that this matter will suffer no delay or that account.

I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient humble servant.

To Benjamin Vaughan.
Paris, May 17, 1789.

Dear Sir,—I am to acknowledge, all together, the receipt of your favors of March the 17th, 26th, and May the 7th, and to return you abundant thanks for your attention to the article of dry rice, and the parcel of seeds you sent me.  This is interesting, because, even should it not take place of the wet rice, in South Carolina, it will enable us to cultivate this grain in Virginia, where we have not lands disposed for the wet rice.  The collection of the works of Monsieur de Poivre has not, as I believe, been ever published.  It could hardly have escaped my knowledge if they had been ever announced.  The French translation of the book on trade, has not yet come to my hands.  Whenever I receive the copies they shall be distributed, and principally among the members of the Etats Généraux.  I doubt whether, at this session, they will take up the subject of commerce.  Whenever they do, they will find better principles nowhere than in that book.  I spoke with Mr. Stewart yesterday on the subject of the distribution, and if I should be gone before the books come to hand, he will execute the commission.  Your nation is very far from the liberality that treatise inculcates.  The proposed regulation on the subject of our wheat, is one proof.  The prohibition of it in England would, of itself, be of no great moment, because I do not know that it is much sent there.  But it is the publishing a libel on our wheat sanctioned with the name of parliament, and which can have no object but to do us injury, by spreading a groundless alarm in those countries of Europe where our wheat is constantly and kindly received.  It is a mere assassination.  If the insect they pretend to fear, be the Hessian fly, it never existed in the grain.  If it be the weevil, our grain always had that;  and the experience of a century has proved that either the climate of England is not warm enough to hatch the egg and continue the race, or that some other unknown cause prevents any evil from it.  How different from this spirit, my dear Sir, has been your readiness to help us to the dry rice, to communicate to us the bread tree, &c.  Will any of our climates admit the cultivation of the latter ?  I am too little acquainted with it, to judge.  I learn that your newspapers speak of the death of Ledyard, at Grand Cairo.  I am anxious to know whether there be foundation for this.  I have not yet had time to try the execution of the wood hygrometer proposed by Dr. Franklin.  Though I have most of the articles ready made, I doubt now whether I shall be able to do it before my departure for America, the permission for which, I expect every hour, and I shall go off the instant I receive it.  While there, I shall have the pleasure of seeing your father and friends.  I expect to return in the fall.  In the meantime I have the honor to be, with very great esteem and respect, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant.

To Thomas Paine.
Paris, May 19, 1789.

Dear Sir

Your favors of February the 16th to April the 13th, and of May the 3d and 10th, are received, and the two last are sent to Mr. Leroy, who will communicate them to the Academy.

You know that the States General have met, and probably have seen the speeches at the opening of them.  The three orders sit in distinct chambers.  The great question, whether they shall vote by orders or persons can never be surmounted amicably.  It has not yet been proposed in form, but the votes which have been taken on the outworks of that question show that the Tiers Etat are unanimous, a good majority of the Clergy (consisting of the Curés) disposed to side with the Tiers Etat, and in the chamber of the Noblesse, there are only fifty-four in that sentiment, against one hundred and ninety, who are for voting by orders.  Committees to find means of conciliation are appointed by each chamber;  but conciliation is impossible.  Some think the Nobles could be induced to unite themselves with the higher clergy into one House, the lower Clergy and Tiers Etat forming another.  But the Tiers Etat are immovable.  They are not only firm, but a little disdainful.  The question is, what will ensue ?  One idea is to separate, in order to consult again their constituents, and to take new instructions.  This would be doing nothing, for the same instructions would be repeated;  and what, in the meantime, is to become of a government, absolutely without money, and which cannot be kept in motion with less than a million of livres a day ?  The more probable expectation is as follows.  As soon as it shall become evident that no amicable determination of the manner of voting can take place, the Tiers Etat will send an invitation to the two other orders to come and take their places in the common chamber.  A majority of the Clergy will go, and the minority of the Noblesse.  The chamber thus composed will declare that the States General are constituted, will notify it to the King, and that they are ready to proceed to business.  If the King refuses to do business with them, and adheres to the Nobles, the common chamber will declare all taxes at an end, will form a declaration of rights, and do such other acts as circumstances will permit, and go home.  The tax-gatherers will then be resisted, and it may well be doubted whether the soldiery and their officers will not divide, as the Tiers Etat and Nobles.  But it is more likely that the King will agree to do business with the States General, so constituted, professing that the necessities of the moment force this, and that he means to negotiate (as they go along) a reconciliation between the seceding members and those which remain.  If the matter takes this turn, there may be small troubles and ebullitions excited by the seceding Noblesse and higher Clergy;  but no serious difficulty can arise.—M. de Lamoignon, the Garde des Sceaux of the last year, has shot himself.  The Emperor’s complaint is pulmonary and incurable.  The Grand Seignor is dead, his successor, young and warlike.

I congratulate you sincerely on the success of your bridge.  I was sure of it before from theory, yet one likes to be assured from practice also.  I am anxious to see how Mr. Rumsey’s experiment succeeds.

May the a 21st.  I have this moment received a letter from Ledyard, dated Cairo, November the 15th.  He therein says, "I am doing up my baggage and most curious baggage it is, and I leave Cairo in two or three days.  I travel from hence southwest, about three hundred leagues, to a black King;  there my present conductors leave me to my fate.  Beyond, I suppose, I go alone.  I expect to hit the continent across, between the parallels of twelve and twenty degrees north latitude.  I shall, if possible, write you from the kingdom of this black gentleman."  This seems to contradict the story of his having died at Cairo in January, as he was then, probably, in the interior parts of Africa.  If Sir Joseph Banks has no news from him later than the letter of September, it may do him pleasure, if you will communicate the above.  If he or any other person knows whether there is any foundation for the story of his death, I will thank you to inform me of it.—My letter being to go off to-morrow, I shall only add assurances of the esteem and respect with which I am, dear Sir, your friend and servant.

To Doctor Richard Price.
Paris, May 19, 1789.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 4th instant is duly received.  I am in hourly expectation of receiving letters permitting me to go to America for a few months, and shall leave Paris within a very few days after I shall have received them.  As this is probably the last letter I can have the honor of writing you before my return, I will do myself the pleasure of putting you in possession of the state of things here at this moment, as it may enable you better to decide between truth and falsehood for some time to come.  You already know that the States General are met, and have seen the speeches of the King, the Garde des Sceaux, and of Mr. Necker.  The three orders as yet, sit in different chambers.  The great parliamentary question whether they shall vote by orders or persons is undecided.  It has not yet been formally proposed, the votes already given in the separate chambers on the outworks of that question, show that the Tiers Etat are unanimous for voting by persons.  A good majority of the Clergy of the same disposition, and only fifty-four of the Noblesse against one hundred and ninety of the same body, who are for voting by orders.  The chambers have appointed committees to confer together on the means of conciliation, but this is mere form, conciliation being impracticable.  The Noblesse, as some think, would be induced to unite themselves into one house, with the higher Clergy, the lower Clergy and Tiers forming another.  But the Tiers are firm, and will agree to no modification.  They are disposed to reduce the State to one order as much as possible.  As we are always disposed to conjecture on the future, it is natural to form conjectures as to the issue from the present difficulty.  One idea is, that they will separate to consult their constituents.  I think they will not do this, because they know their constituents will repeat the same instructions.  And what in the meantime is to become of a government which cannot keep in motion with less than a million of livres a day ?  A more probable conjecture is, that when it shall be manifest that conciliation is impracticable, the Tiers will invite the other orders to come and take their places in the common chamber.  The majority of the Clergy, (to wit, the curés, and the minority of the Noblesse,) will accept the invitation.  The chamber thus composed, will declare that the States General are now constituted, will notify it to the King, and prepare to proceed to business.  If he refuses to acknowledge them, and adheres to the principles of the Noblesse, they will suspend all taxes, form a declaration of rights, and do such other acts as circumstances will admit, and go home.  The taxgatherers will be resisted, and perhaps the soldiery take side with the Tiers, and their officers with the Noblesse.  But I rather suppose the I King will do business with the States so constituted, negotiating at the same time as they go along, a reconciliation with the seceding members.  The latter may in that case excite small and partial troubles, but cannot make a serious resistance.  It is very important that the lower Clergy side with the Tiers.  They are the effective part of that order, while the bishops and archbishops are held in detestation.  But you are to keep in mind that these are conjectures, and you know how small a circumstance may give a totally different turn from what has been plausibly conjectured.  My hope is that the mass of the Bourgeoisie is too well in motion, and too well-informed to be resisted or misled, and ultimately that this great country will obtain a good constitution, and show the rest of Europe that reformation in government follows reformation in opinion.  I am, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and attachment, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

To Monsieur de Crève-Coeur.
Paris, May 20, 1789.

Dear Sir I am now to acknowledge the receipt of your several letters of October 20th, November 20th, and January 5th, and to thank you for the pamphlets you have been so kind as to send me.  A conveyance by the way of London enables me to write the present, for I never think of writing news by the circumnavigation of the Bordeaux packet.  You know that your States General are met, and you have seen the speeches of the King and his ministers at the opening of it, for I take for granted, M. de Montmorin has sent them to M. de Moustier, as I have done to Mr. Jay.  I was present at that august ceremony.  Had it been enlightened with lamps and chandeliers, it would have been almost as brilliant as the opera.  Till now your affairs have gone on with a smoothness and rapidity which has been never before seen.  At this moment, however, they are at a dead stand.  The great preliminary question, whether they shall vote by orders or persons, seems to threaten a scission.  They have not yet ventured to present the question in form, but the votes which have been given by the separate chambers on the outworks of that question, enables us to see pretty clearly the strength of the two parties.  For voting by persons are 1.  the Tiers Etat, unanimous; 2.  a good majority of the Clergy (consisting of the curés) 3.  fifty-four members of the Noblesse.  For voting by orders are 1, the residue of the Nobles being about 190; 2, a minority of the Clergy, consisting of the bishops and archbishops, &c.  All the world is conjecturing how they are to get over the difficulty.  Abundance are affrighted, and think all is lost, and the nation in despair at this unsuccessful effort, will consign itself to tenfold despotism.  This is rank cowardice.  Others propose that the members shall go back to ask new instructions from their constituents.  This would be useless, because they know that the same instructions would be repeated, and who can say what new event, internal or external, might shuffle this glorious game out of their hands ?  Another hypothesis, which I shall develop, because I like it, and wish it, and hope it, is, that as soon as it shall be manifest that the committees of conciliation, now appointed by the three chambers, shall be able to agree in nothing, the Tiers will invite the other two orders to come and take their seats in the common chamber.  A majority of the Clergy will come, and the minority of the Nobles.  The chamber thus composed, will declare that the States General are now constituted, will notify it to the King, and propose to do business.  It may be hoped he will accede to their proposition, justifying it by the necessity of the moment, and negotiating as they go along, the return of the other members of the Noblesse and Clergy.  If he should, on the contrary, refuse to receive them as the States General, and adhere to the principles of the Noblesse, it may possibly happen that the Tiers will declare all taxes discontinued, form a declaration of rights, and do such other acts as circumstances will admit, and return every man to his tent.  The tax-gatherers might be resisted, and the body of the army found to be disposed differently from their officers.  All this will be avoided by admitting this composition of the chamber to be the States General, and pursuing modes of conciliation.  These, indeed, will be difficult for the orders, as the Tiers seem determined to break down all the barriers of the separation of the several orders, and to have in future but one.  I would have put off writing to you a few days longer, in hopes of informing you of the unravelling of this knot, but I am in hourly expectation of receiving my leave of absence, and am so prepared for my departure, that a very few days will enable me to set out for America, where I shall have the pleasure of relating to you more accurately the state of things here, of delivering you letters from your sons, and of assuring you in person of those sentiments of esteem and respect, with which I have the honor to be, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant.

P.S.  I have sent to M. le Comte de Moustier a list of the Deputies of the States.

To Monsieur de la Fayette.
Paris, June 3, 1789.

Dear Sir,—Revolving further in my mind the idea started yesterday of the King’s coming forward in a seance royale, and offering a charter containing all the good in which all the parties agree, I like it more and more.  I have ventured to sketch such a charter merely to convey my idea, which I now enclose to you, as I do also to M. de St. Etienne.  I write him a letter of apology for my meddling in a business where I know so little and you and he so much.  I have thought it better to possess him immediately of the paper, because he may at the conference of today sound the minds of the conferees.  Yours affectionately.

To Monsieur Rabaut de St. Etienne.
Paris, June 3, 1789.


After you quitted us yesterday evening, we continued our conversation (Monsieur de La Fayette, Mr. Short and myself) on the subject of the difficulties which environ you.  The desirable object being, to secure the good which the King has offered, and to avoid the ill which seems to threaten, an idea was suggested, which appearing to make an impression on Monsieur de La Fayette, I was encouraged to pursue it on my return to Paris, to put it into form, and now to send it to you and him.  It is this, that the King, in a seance royale should come forward with a Charter of Rights in his hand, to be signed by himself and by every member of the three orders.  This charter to contain the five great points which the Resultat of December offered, on the part of the King, the abolition of pecuniary privileges offered by the privileged orders, and the adoption of the National debt, and a grant of the sum of money asked from the nation.  This last will be a cheap price for the preceding articles;  and let the same act declare your immediate separation till next anniversary meeting.  You will carry back to your constituents more good than ever was effected before without violence, and you will stop exactly at the point where violence would otherwise begin.  Time will be gained, the public mind will continue to ripen and to be informed, a basis of support may be prepared with the people themselves, and expedients occur for gaining still something further at your next meeting, and for stopping again at the point of force.  I have ventured to send to yourself and Monsieur de La Fayette a sketch of my ideals of what this act might contain, without endangering any dispute.  But it is offered merely as a canvas for you to work on, if it be fit to work on at all.  I know too little of the subject, and you know too much of it, to justify me in offering anything but a hint.  I have done it, too, in a hurry :  insomuch, that since committing it to writing, it occurs to me that the fifth article may give alarm, that it is in a good degree included in the fourth, and is, therefore, useless.  But after all, what excuse can I make, Sir, for this presumption.  I have none but an unmeasurable love for your nation, and a painful anxiety lest despotism, after an unaccepted offer to bind its own hands, should seize you again with tenfold fury.  Permit me to add to these, very sincere assurances of the sentiments of esteem and respect, with which I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

[The annexed is the Charter accompanying the two preceding letters.]

A Charter of Rights, solemnly established by the King and Nation.

1.  The States General shall assemble, uncalled, on the first day of November, annually, and shall remain together so long as they shall see cause.  They shall regulate their own elections and proceedings, and until they shall ordain otherwise, their elections shall be in the forms observed in the present year, and shall be triennial.

2.  The States General alone shall levy money on the nation, and shall appropriate it.

3.  Laws shall be made by the States General only, with the consent of the King.

4.  No person shall be restrained of his liberty, but by regular process from a court of justice, authorized by a general law.  (Except that a Noble may be imprisoned by order of a court of justice, on the prayer of twelve of his nearest relations.)  On complaint of an unlawful imprisonment, to any judge whatever, he shall have the prisoner immediately brought before him, and shall discharge him, if his imprisonment be unlawful.  The officer in whose custody the prisoner is, shall obey the orders of the judge, and both judge and officer shall be responsible, civilly and criminally, for a failure of duty herein.

5.  The military shall be subordinate to the civil authority.

6.  Printers shall be liable to legal prosecution for printing and publishing false facts, injurious to the party prosecuting, but they shall be under no other restraint.

7.  All pecuniary privileges and exemptions, enjoyed by any description of persons, are abolished.

8.  All debts already contracted by the King, are hereby made the debts of the nation, and the faith thereof is pledged for their payment in due time.

9.  Eighty millions of livres are now granted to the King, to be raised by loan, and reimbursed by the nation;  and the taxes heretofore paid, shall continue to be paid to the end of the present year, and no longer.

10.  The States General shall now separate, and meet again on the 1st day of November next.

Done, on behalf of the whole nation, by the King and their representatives in the States General, at Versailles, this ——— day of June, 1789.

Signed by the King, and by every member individually, and in his presence.

To the Marquis de la Fayette.
Paris, June 12, 1789.

My Dear Sir

As I may not be able to get at you, at Versailles, I write this to deliver it myself at your door.  With respect to the utility, or inutility of your minority’s joining the Commons, I am unable to form an opinion for myself.  I know too little of the subject to see what may be its consequences.

I never knew an instance of the English parliament’s undertaking to relieve the poor, by a distribution of bread in time of scarcity.  In fact, the English commerce is so extensive and so active, that though bread may be a little more or less plenty, there can never be an absolute failure.  This island is so narrow, that corn can be readily carried from the sea ports to its interior parts.  But were an absolute want to happen, and were the parliament to undertake a distribution of corn, I think, that according to the principles of their government, they would only vote a sum of money, and address the King to employ it for the best.  The business is, in its nature, executive, and would require too great a variety of detail to be managed by an act of parliament.  However, I repeat it, that I never heard or read of an instance of the parliament’s interfering to give bread.  If I see you at Versailles to-day, I can be more particular.

I am with great sincerity, my dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant.

To John Jay.
Paris, June 17, 1789.


I had the honor of addressing you on the 9th and 12th of May, by the way of London.  This goes through the same channel to the care of Mr. Trumbull.  Having received no letter from you of later date than the a 25th of November, I am apprehensive that there may have been miscarriages, and the more so as I learn, through another channel, that you have particularly answered mine of November the 19th.

The death of the Grand Seignior, which has happened, renders the continuance of the war more probable, as it has brought to the throne a successor of a more active and ardent temper, and who means to put himself at the head of his armies.  He has declared the Captain Pacha his Generalissimo.  The prospects for Russia on the other hand, are less encouraging.  Her principal ally, the Emperor, is at death’s door, blazing up a little, indeed, from time to time, like an expiring taper, but certainly to extinguish soon.  Denmark, too, is likely to be restrained by the threats of England and Prussia, from contributing even her stipulated naval succors.  It is some time since I have been able to obtain any account of the King of England, on which I can rely with confidence.  His melancholy continues, and to such a degree, as to render him absolutely indifferent to everything that passes, so that he seems willing to let his ministers do everything they please, provided they will let him alone.  When forced to speak, his comprehension seems better than it was in the first moments after his phrensy went off.  His health is bad;  he does not go into public at all, and very few are admitted to see him.  This is his present state, according to the best accounts I have been able to get lately.  His ministers dictate boldly in the north, because they know it is impossible they should be engaged in the war, while this country is so completely palsied.

You will have seen, by my former letters, that the question, whether the States General should vote by persons or by orders, had stopped their proceedings in the very first instances in which it could occur, that is, as to the verification of their powers, and that they had appointed committees to try if there were any means of accommodation.  These could do nothing.  The King then proposed that they should appoint others, to meet persons whom he should name, on the same subject.  These conferences also proved ineffectual.  He then proposed a specific mode of verifying.  The Clergy accepted it unconditionally.  The Noblesse, with such conditions and modifications, as did away their acceptance altogether.  The Commons, considering this as a refusal, came to the resolution of the 10th instant, (which I have the honor to send you,) inviting the two other orders to come and take their places in the common room, and notifying that they should proceed to the verification of powers, and to the affairs of the nation, either with or without them.  The Clergy have, as yet, given no answer.  A few of their members have accepted the invitation of the Commons, and have presented themselves in their room, to have their powers verified;  but how many it will detach, in the whole, from that body, cannot be known till an answer be decided on.  The Noblesse adhered to their former resolutions, and even the minority, well disposed to the Commons, thought they could do more good in their own chamber, by endeavoring to increase their numbers and fettering the measures of the majority, than by joining the Commons.  An intrigue was set on foot between the leaders of the majority in that House, the Queen and Princes.  They persuaded the King to go for some time to Marly;  he went.  On the same day, the leaders moved in the chamber of Nobles, that they should address the King, to declare his own sentiments on the great question between the orders.  It was intended that this address should be delivered to him at Marly, where, separated from his ministers, and surrounded by the Queen and Princes, he might be surprised into a declaration for the Nobles.  The motion was lost, however, by a very great majority, that chamber being not yet quite ripe for throwing themselves into the arms of despotism.  Necker and Montmorin who had discovered this intrigue, had warned some of the minority to defeat it, or they could not answer for what would happen.  These two and St. Priest, are the only members of the Council in favor of the Commons.  Luzerne, Puy-Segur and the others, are high aristocrats.  The Commons having verified their powers, a motion was made the day before yesterday, to declare themselves constituted, and to proceed to business.  I left them at two o’clock yesterday;  the debates not then finished.  They differed only about forms of expression, but agreed in the substance, and probably decided yesterday, or will decide to-day.  Their next move, I fancy, will be to suppress all taxes, and instantly re-establish them till the end of their session, in order to prevent a premature dissolution;  and then, they will go to work on a declaration of rights and a constitution.  The Noblesse, I suppose, will be employed altogether in counter operations;  the Clergy, that is to say, the higher Clergy, and such of the Curés as they can bring over to their side, will be waiting and watching, merely to keep themselves in their saddles.  Their deportment, hitherto, is that of meekness and cunning.  The fate of the nation depends on the conduct of the King and his ministers.  Were they to side openly with the Commons, the revolution would be completed without a convulsion, by the establishment of a constitution, tolerably free, and in which the distinction of Noble and Commoner would be suppressed.  But this is scarcely possible.  The King is honest, and wishes the good of his people;  but the expediency of an hereditary aristocracy is too difficult a question for him.  On the contrary, his prejudices, his habits and his connections, decide him in his heart to support it.  Should they decide openly for the Noblesse, the Commons, after suppressing taxes, and finishing their declaration of rights, would probably go home;  a bankruptcy takes place in the instant, Mr. Necker must go out, a resistance to the tax-gatherers follows, and probably a civil war.  These consequences are too evident and violent, to render this issue likely.  Though the Queen and Princes are infatuated enough to hazard it, the party in the ministry would not.  Something, therefore, like what I hinted in my letter of May the 12th, is still the most likely to take place.  While the Commons, either with or without their friends of the other two Houses, shall be employed in framing a constitution, perhaps the government may set the other two Houses to work on the same subject;  and when the three schemes shall be ready, joint committees may be negotiated, to compare them together, to see in what parts they agree;  and probably they will agree in all, except the organization of the future States General.  As to this, it may be endeavored, by the aid of wheedling and intimidation, to induce the two privileged chambers to melt themselves into one, and the Commons, instead of one, to agree to two Houses of legislation.  I see no other middle ground to which they can be brought.

It is a tremendous cloud, indeed, which hovers over this nation, and he at the helm has neither the courage nor the skill necessary to weather it.  Eloquence in a high degree, knowledge in matters of account and order, are distinguishing traits in his character.  Ambition is his first passion, virtue his second.  He has not discovered that sublime truth, that a bold, unequivocal virtue is the best handmaid even to ambition, and would carry him further, in the end, than the temporizing, wavering policy he pursues.  His judgment is not of the first order, scarcely even of the second;  his resolution frail;  and, upon the whole, it is rare to meet an instance of a person so much below the reputation he has obtained.  As this character, by the post and times in which providence has placed it, is important to be known, I send it to you as drawn by a person of my acquaintance, who knows him well.  He is not, indeed, his friend, and allowance must, therefore, be made for the high coloring.  But this being abated, the facts and groundwork of the drawing are just.  If the Tiers separate, he goes at the same time;  if they stay together, and succeed in establishing a constitution to their mind, as soon as that is placed in safety, they will abandon him to the mercy of the court, unless he can recover the confidence which he has lost at present, and which, indeed, seems to be irrecoverable.

The inhabitants of St. Domingo, without the permission of the Government, have chosen and sent deputies to the States General.  The question of their admission is to be discussed by the States.  In the meantime, the Government had promised them an Assembly in their own island, in the course of the present year.  The death of the Dauphin, so long expected, has at length happened.  Montmorin told Ternant the other day, that de Moustier had now asked a congé, which would be sent him immediately.  So that unless a change of ministry should happen, he will, probably, be otherwise disposed of.  The gazettes of France and Leyden accompany this.  I have the honor to be, with the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient humble servant.

P.S.  June 18.  The motion under debate with the Commons, for constituting their Assembly, passed yesterday by a majority of four hundred and odd, against eighty odd.  The latter were for it in substance, but wished some particular amendment.  They proceeded instantly to the subject of taxation.  A member, who called on me this moment, gave me a state of the proceedings of yesterday, from memory, which I enclose you.  He left the House a little before the question was put, because he saw there was no doubt of its passing, and his brother, who remained till the decision, informed him of it.  So that we may expect, perhaps, in the course of to-morrow, to see whether the government will interpose with a bold hand, or will begin a negotiation.  But in the meantime, this letter must go off.  I will find some other opportunity, however, of informing you of the issue.

[Character of Mr. Necker, accompanying the preceding letter.]

Nature bestowed on Mr. Necker an ardent passion for glory, without, at the same time, granting him those qualities required for its pursuit by direct means.  The union of a fruitful imagination, with a limited talent, with which she has endowed him, is always incompatible with those faculties of the mind which qualify their possessor to penetrate, to combine, and to comprehend all the relations of objects.

He had probably learned in Geneva, his native country, the influence which riches exercise on the success of ambition, without having recourse to the school of Paris, where he arrived about the twenty-eighth year of his age.  A personal affair with his brother, in which the chiefs of the republic conducted themselves unjustly towards him, the circumstances of which, moreover, exposed him to ridicule, determined him to forsake his country.  On taking his leave, he assured his mother that he would make a great fortune at Paris.  On his arrival, he engaged himself as clerk, at a salary of six hundred livres, with the banker Thelusson, a man of extreme harshness in his intercourse with his dependents.  The same cause which obliged other clerks to abandon the service of Thelusson, determined Necker to continue in it.  By submitting to the brutality of his master with a servile resignation, whilst, at the same time, he devoted the most unremitting attention to his business, he recommended himself to his confidence, and was taken into partnership.  Ordinary abilities only were requisite to avail him of the multitude of favorable circumstances, which, before he entered into the administration, built up a fortune of six millions of livres.  He owed much of his good fortune to his connections with the Abbé Terrai, of whose ignorance he did not scruple to profit.  His riches, his profession, his table, and a virtuous, reasonable and well-informed wife, procured him the acquaintance of many persons of distinction, among whom were many men of letters, who celebrated his knowledge and wisdom.

The wise and just principles by which Turgot aimed to correct the abuses of the administration, not having been received with favor, he seized the occasion to flatter ignorance and malignity, by publishing his work against the freedom of the corn trade.  He had published, two years before, an eulogy on Colbert.  Both these productions exhibited the limited capacity of a banker, and, in no degree, the enlarged views of a statesman.  Not at all delicate in the choice of his means, he succeeded to his wish in his object, which was the establishing himself in public opinion.  Elevated by a secret cabal, to the direction of the finances, he began by refusing the salaries of his office.  He affected a spirit of economy and austerity, which imposed even on foreign nations, and showed the possibility of making war without laying new taxes.  Such, at least, was his boast;  but, it reality, they have been increased under his administration, about twenty millions, partly by a secret augmentation of the bailles and of the poll-tax, partly by some versifications of the twentieths, and partly by the natural progression, which is tested by the amount of taxes on consumption, the necessary result of the successive increase of population, of riches, and of expensive tastes.

All these circumstances reared for him an astonishing reputation, which his fall has consecrated.  People will not reflect, that, in the short period of his ministry, he had more than doubled his fortune.  Not that he had peculated on the public treasury;  his good sense and pride forbade a resort to this manœuvre of weak minds;  but by resorting to loans and the costly operations of the bank, to provide the funds of war, and being still connected with the house to which he addressed himself for much the greater part of his negotiations.  They have not remarked that his great principles of economy have nothing more than a false show, and that the loans resorted to, in order to avoid the imposition of taxes, have been the source of the mischief which has reduced the finances to their present alarming condition.

As to his compte rendu;  he has been forgiven the nauseous panegyric which he has passed upon himself, and the affectation of introducing his wife into it, for the purpose of praising her;  and we are spared the trouble of examining his false calculations.  M. de Calonnes has undertaken this investigation.  Without being able to vindicate himself, he has already begun to unmask his antagonist, and he promises to do it effectually.

Necessity has recalled this man to the ministry;  and it must be confessed that he is beyond comparison a less mischievous minister than his predecessors.  I would compare him to a steward, who, by his management, does not entirely ruin his master, but who enriches himself at his expense.  The desire of glory should inspire him as much as possible with the energy requisite for the public business.  There is every likelihood that his ministry will not endure long enough to cause it to feel the effects of his false principles of administration;  and it is he alone who is able, if any one can, to preserve order in the finances, until the reform is effected which we hope from the assembling of the States General.  In the meantime the public estimation of his talents and virtue is not so high as it has been.  There are persons who pretend that he is more firmly established in public opinion than he ever was.  They deceive themselves.  The ambitious desire he has always manifested of getting again into the administration, his work on the importance of religious opinions, and the memoires of M. de Calonnes, have greatly impaired his reputation.

To James Madison.
Paris, June 18, 1789.


My last to you was of May the 11th.  Yours of March the 29th, came to hand ten days ago;  and about two days ago I received a cover of your hand writing, under which were a New York paper of May the 4th, and a letter from Mr. Page to Mazzei.  There being no letter from you, makes me hope there is one on the way, which will inform me of my congé.  I have never received Mr. Jay’s answer to my public letter, of November the 19th, which you mention him to have written, and which I fear has been intercepted.  I know only from you, that my letter got safe to hand.  My baggage has been made up more than a month, so that I shall leave Paris almost in the instant of receiving the permission.

The campaign begins under unfavorable auspices for Russia.  The death of the Grand Seignior, who was personally disposed for peace, has brought a young and ardent successor to the throne, determined to push the war to extremity.  Her only ally, the Emperor, is in articulo mortis, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, should he succeed, loves peace and money.  Denmark is forbidden by England and Prussia to furnish even its stipulated maritime aid.  There is no appearance of any other power’s engaging in the war.  As far as I can discover, the King of England is somewhat better in his head, but under such a complete depression of spirits, that he does not care how the world goes, and leaves his ministers to do as they please.  It is impossible for you to conceive how difficult it is to know the truth relative to him, he is environed in such an atmosphere of lies.  Men who would not speak a falsehood on any other subject, lie on this, from a principle of duty;  so that even eye witnesses cannot be believed without scanning their principles and connections;  and few will stand this, of the very few permitted to see him.

Committees of conciliation having failed in their endeavors to bring together the three chambers of thc States General, the King proposed a specific mode of verifying their powers; for that having been the first question which presented itself to them, was the one in which thc question of voting by persons or orders was first brought on.  The Clergy accepted unconditionally.  The Noblesse accepted on conditions which reduced the acceptance to nothing at all.  The Commons considered this as a refusal on the part of the Nobles, and thereupon took their definitive resolution, to invite the other two orders to come and verify their powers in common, and to notify them they should proceed with or without them to verify, and to do the business of the nation.  This was on the 10th.  On the 15th, they moved to declare themselves thc National Assembly.  The debates on this were finished yesterday, when the proposition was agreed to, by four hundred and odd, against eighty odd.  The minority agreed in substance, but wished some particular amendment.  They then immediately made the proposition relative to taxes, which I enclose you, as this moment stated to me, by memory, by a member who left the Assembly a little before the question, because there was no opposition to the matter, but only to the form.  He assures me, on the information of another member who was present, that Target’s motion passed.  We shall know, I think, within a day or two, whether the government will risk a bankruptcy and civil war, rather than see all distinction of orders done away, which is what the Commons will push for.  If the fear of the former alternative prevails, they will spin the matter into negotiation.  The Commons have in their chamber almost all the talents of the nation ;  they are firm and bold, yet moderate.  There is, indeed, among them, a number of very hot-headed members;  but those of most influence are cool, temperate and sagacious.  Every step of this House has been marked with caution and wisdom.  The Noblesse, on the contrary, are absolutely out of their senses.  They are so furious, they can seldom debate at all.  They have few men of moderate talents, and not one of great, in the majority.  Their proceedings have been very injudicious.  The Clergy are waiting to profit by every incident to secure themselves, and have no other object in view.  Among the Commons there is an entire unanimity on the great question of voting by persons.  Among the Noblesse there are about sixty for the Commons, and about three times that number against them.  Among the Clergy, about twenty have already come over and joined the Commons, and in the course of a few days they will be joined by many more, not, indeed, making the majority of that House, but very near it.  The Bishops and Archbishops have been very successful by bribes and intrigues, in detaching the Curés from the Commons, to whom they were at first attached to a man.  The Commons are about five hundred and fifty-four in number, of whom three hundred and forty-four are of the law.  These do not possess an influence founded in property;  but in their habits of business and acquaintance with the people, and in their means of exciting them as they please.  The Curés throughout the kingdom, form the mass of the Clergy;  they are the only part favorably known to the people, because solely charged with the duties of baptism, burial, confession, visitation of the sick, instruction of the children, and aiding the poor;  they are themselves of the people, and united with them.  The carriages and equipage only of the higher Clergy, not their persons, are known to the people, and are in detestation with them.  The soldiers will follow their officers, that is to say, their captains, lieutenants and ensigns.  These are of the lower nobility, and, therefore, much divided.  The colonels and higher officers are of the higher nobility, are seldom with the soldiers, little known to them, not possessing their attachment.  These circumstances give them little weight in the partition of the army.

I give you these miscellaneous observations, that knowing somewhat the dispositions of the parties, you may be able to judge of the future for yourself, as I shall not be here to continue its communication to you.

In hopes to see you soon, I conclude with assurances of the perfect esteem and respect with which I am, dear Sir, your friend and servant.

To John Jay.
Paris, June 24, 1789.


My letter of the 17th and 18th instant, gave you the progress of the States General to the 17th, when the Tiers had declared the illegality of all the existing taxes, and their discontinuance from the end of their present session.  The next day being a jour de fête, could furnish no indication of the impression that vote was likely to make on the government.  On the 19th, a Council was held at Marly, in the afternoon.  It was there proposed, that the King should interpose by a declaration of his sentiments in a seance royale.  The declaration prepared by Mr. Necker, while it censured in general the proceedings both of the Nobles and Commons, announced the King’s views, such as substantially to coincide with the Commons.  It was agreed to in Council, as also that the seance royale should be held on the 22d, and the meetings till then be suspended.  While the Council was engaged in this deliberation at Marly, the Chamber of the Clergy was in debate, whether they should accept the invitation of the Tiers to unite with them in the common chamber.  On the first question, to unite simply and unconditionally, it was decided in the negative by a very small majority.  As it was known, however, that some members who had voted in the negative, would be for the affirmative with some modifications, the question was put with these modifications, and it was determined by a majority of eleven members, that their body should join the Tiers.  These proceedings of the Clergy were unknown to the Council at Marly, and those of the Council were kept secret from everybody.  The next morning (the 20th), the members repaired to the House as usual, found the doors shut and guarded, and a proclamation posted up for holding a seance royale on the 22d, and a suspension of their meetings till then.  They presumed, in the first moment, that their dissolution was decided, and repaired to another place, where they proceeded to business.  They there bound themselves to each other by an oath, never to separate of their own accord, till they had settled a constitution for the nation on a solid basis, and if separated by force, that they would re-assemble in some other place.  It was intimated to them, however, that day, privately, that the proceedings of the seance royale would be favorable to them.  The next day they met in a church, and were joined by a majority of the Clergy.  The heads of the aristocracy, that is to say the queen, Count d’Artois and Prince de Condé, saw that all was lost without some violent exertion.  The King was still at Marly.  Nobody was permitted to approach him but their friends.  He was assailed by lies in all shapes.  He was made to believe that the Commons were going to absolve the army from their oath of fidelity to him, and to raise their pay.  The queen abandoned herself to rage and despair.  They procured a committee to be held, consisting of the King and his ministers, to which Monsieur and the Count d’Artois should be admitted.  At this committee, the latter attacked Mr. Necker personally, arraigned his plan, and proposed one which some of his engines had put into his hands;  for his own talents, go no farther than a little poor wit.  Mr. Necker, whose characteristic is the want of firmness, was browbeaten and intimidated, and the King shaken.  He determined that the two plans should be deliberated on the next day, and the seance royale put off a day longer.  This encouraged a fiercer attack on Mr. Necker the next day;  his plan was totally dislocated, and that of the Count d’Artois inserted into it.  Himself and Monsieur de Montmorin offered their resignation, which was refused;  the Count d’Artois saying to Mr. Necker, "No, Sir, you must be kept as the hostage;  we hold you responsible for all the ill which shall happen."  This change of plan was immediately whispered without doors.  The nobility were in triumph, the people in consternation.  When the King passed the next day through the lane they formed from the Chateau to the Hotel des Etats (about half a mile), there was a dead silence.  He was about an hour in the House, delivering his speech and declaration, copies of which I enclose you.  On his coming out, a feeble cry of "vive le roy" was raised by some children, but the people remained silent and sullen.  When the Duke d’Orleans followed, however, their applauses were excessive.  This must have been sensible to the King.  He had ordered, in the close of his speech, that the members should follow him, and resume their deliberations the next day.  The Noblesse followed him, and so did the Clergy, except about thirty, who, with the Tiers, remained in the room, and entered into deliberation.  They protested against what the King had done, adhered to all their former proceedings, and resolved the inviolability of their own persons.  An officer came twice to order them out of the room, in the King’s name, but they refused to obey.  In the afternoon, the people, uneasy, began to assemble in great numbers in the courts and vicinities of the palace.  The Queen was alarmed, and sent for Mr. Necker.  He was conducted amidst the shouts and acclamations of the multitude, who filled all the apartments of the palace.  He was a few minutes only with the Queen, and about three-quarters of an hour with the King.  Not a word has transpired of what passed at these interviews.  The King was just going to ride out.  He passed through the crowd to his carriage, and into it, without being in the least noticed.  As Mr. Necker followed him, universal acclamations were raised of "Vive Monsieur Necker, vive le sauveur de la France opprim&eaute;e."  He was conducted back to his house with the same demonstrations of affection and anxiety.  About two hundred deputies of the Tiers, catching the enthusiasm of the moment, went to his house, and extorted from him a promise that he would not resign.  These circumstances must wound the heart of the King, desirous as he is, to possess the affections of his subjects.  As soon as the proceedings at Versailles were known at Paris, a run began on the caisse d’escompte, which is the first symptom always of the public diffidence and alarm.  It is the less in condition to meet the run, as Mr. Necker has been forced to make free with its funds, for the daily support of the government.  This is the state of things, as late as I am able to give them with certainty, at this moment.  My letter not being to go off till tomorrow evening, I shall go to Versailles to-morrow, and be able to add the transactions of this day and to-morrow.

June 25.  Just returned from Versailles, I am enabled to continue my narration.  On the 24th, nothing remarkable passed, except an attack by the mob of Versailles on the Archbishop of Paris, who had been one of the instigators of the court, to the proceedings of the seance royale.  They threw mud and stones at his carriage, broke the windows of it, and he in a fright promised to join the Tiers.

This day (the 25th) forty-eight of the Nobles have joined the Tiers.  Among these, is the Duke d’Orleans.  The Marquis de La Fayette could not be of the number, being restrained by his instructions.  He is writing to his constituents, to change his instructions or to accept his resignation.  There are with the Tiers now, one hundred and sixty-four members of the Clergy, so that the common chamber consists of upwards of eight hundred members.  The minority of the Clergy, however, call themselves the chamber of the Clergy, and pretend to go on with business.  I found the streets of Versailles much embarrassed with soldiers.  There was a body of about one hundred horse drawn up in front of the Hotel of the States, and all the avenues and doors guarded by soldiers.  Nobody was permitted to enter but the members, and this was by order of the King;  for till now, the doors of the common room have been open, and at least two thousand spectators attending their debates constantly.  They have named a deputation to wait on the King, and desire a removal of the soldiery from their doors, and seem determined, if this is not complied with, to remove themselves elsewhere.  Instead of being dismayed with what has passed, they seem to rise in their demands, and some of them to consider the erasing every vestige of a difference of order as indispensable to the establishment and preservation of a good constitution.  I apprehend there is more courage than calculation in this project.  I did imagine, that seeing that Mr. Necker and themselves were involved as common enemies in the hatred of the aristocrats, they would have been willing to make common cause with him, and to wish his continuance in office;  and that Mr. Necker, seeing that all the trimming he has used towards the court and Nobles, has availed him nothing, would engage himself heartily and solely on the popular side, and view his own salvation in that alone.  The confidence which the people place in him, seems to merit some attention.  However, the mass of the common chamber are absolutely indifferent to his remaining in office.  They consider his head as unequal to the planning a good constitution, and his fortitude to a co-operation in the effecting it.  His dismission is more credited to-day than it was yesterday.  If it takes place, he will retain his popularity with the nation, as the members of the States will not think it important to set themselves against it, but on the contrary, will be willing that he should continue on their side, on his retirement.  The run on the caisse d’escompte continues.  The members of the States admit, that Mr. Necker’s departure out of office will occasion a stoppage of public payments.  But they expect to prevent any very ill effect, by assuring the public against any loss, and by taking immediate measures for continuing payment.  They may, perhaps, connect these measures with their own existence, so as to interest the public in whatever catastrophe may be aimed at them.  The gazettes of France and Leyden accompany this.  During the continuance of this crisis and my own stay, I shall avail myself of every private conveyance to keep you informed of what passes.  I have the honor to be, with the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

To John Jay.
Paris, June 29, 1789.


My letter of the 25th gave you the transactions of the States General to the afternoon of that day.  On the next, the Archbishop of Paris joined the Tiers, as did some others of the Clergy and Noblesse.  On the 27th, the question of the St. Domingo deputation came on, and it was decided that it should be received.  I have before mentioned to you the ferment into which the proceedings at the seance royale of the 23d, had thrown the people.  The soldiery also were affected by it.  It began in the French guards, extended to those of every other denomination, (except the Swiss) and even to the body guards of the King.  They began to quit their barracks, to assemble in squads, to declare they would defend the life of the King, but would not cut the throats of their fellow-citizens.  They were treated and caressed by the people, carried in triumph through the streets, called themselves the soldiers of the nation, and left no doubt on which side they would be, in case of a rupture.  Similar accounts came in from the troops in other parts of the kingdom, as well those which had not heard of the seance royale, as those which had, and gave good reason to apprehend that the soldiery, in general, would side with their fathers and brothers, rather than with their officers.  The operation of this medicine, at Versailles, was as sudden as it was powerful.  The alarm there was so complete, that in the afternoon of the 27th, the King wrote a letter to the President of the Clergy, the Cardinal de La Rochefoucault, in these words [translation]:

"My Cousin,—Wholly engaged in promoting the general good of my kingdom, and desirous, above all things, that the Assembly of the States General should apply themselves to objects of general interest, after the voluntary acceptance by your order of my declaration of the 23d of the present month;  I pass my word that my faithful Clergy will, without delay, unite themselves with the other two orders, to hasten the accomplishment of my paternal views.  Those, whose powers are too limited, may decline voting until new powers are procured.  This will be a new mark of attachment which my Clergy will give me.  I pray God, my Cousin, to have you in his holy keeping.


A like letter was written to the Duke de Luxemburgh, President of the Noblesse.  The two chambers entered into debate on the question, whether they should obey the letter of the King.  There was a considerable opposition;  when notes written by the Count d’Artois to sundry members, and handed about among the rest, decided the matter, and they went in a body and took their seats with the Tiers, and thus rendered the union of the orders in one chamber complete.  As soon as this was known to the people of Versailles, they assembled about the palace, demanded the King and Queen, who came and showed themselves in a balcony.  They rent the skies with cries of "vive le roy," "vive la reine."  They called for the Dauphin, who was also produced, and was the subject of new acclamations.  After feasting themselves and the royal family with this tumultuary reconciliation, they went to the house of Mr. Necker and M. de Montmorin, with shouts of thankfulness and affection.  Similar emotions of joy took place in Paris, and at this moment, the triumph of the Tiers is considered as complete.  To-morrow they will recommence business, voting by persons on all questions;  and whatever difficulties may be opposed in debate by the malcontents of the Clergy and Nobility, everything must be finally settled at the will of the Tiers.  It remains to see whether they will leave to the Nobility anything but their titulary appellations.  I suppose they will not.  Mr. Necker will probably remain in office.  It would seem natural that he should endeavor to have the hostile part of the Council removed, but I question if he finds himself firm enough for that.  A perfect co-operation with the Tiers will be his wisest game.  This great crisis being now over, I shall not have matter interesting enough to trouble you with, as often as I have done lately.  There has nothing remarkable taken place in any other part of Europe.  I have the honor to be, with the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.