Dear Sir,I never made an offer to anybody, to have corn or flour brought here, from America; no such idea ever entered my head. Mr. Necker desired me to give information in America, that there would be a want of flour. I did so in a letter to Mr. Jay, which he published with my name to it, for the encouragement of the merchants. Those here, who have named me on this subject, must have mistaken me for Mr. Parker. I have heard him say, he offered Mr. Necker to bring a large supply, yet I do not think I ever repeated this; or if I did, it must have been in a company I relied on. I will thank you to satisfy Mr. Necker of the truth. It would be disagreeable, and perhaps mischievous, were he to have an idea that I encouraged censures on him. I will bring you the paper you desire to-morrow; and shall dine at the Duchess Danvilles, where I shall be happy to meet you. Adieu. Yours affectionately.
Dear Sir,Your letter of yesterday gave me the first information that Monsieur de Mirabeau had suggested to the honorable Assembly of the Nation, that I had made an offer to Mr. Necker, to obtain from America a quantity of corn or flour, which had been refused. I know not how Monsieur de Mirabeau has been led into this error. I never in my life made any proposition to Mr. Necker on the subject; I never said I had made such a proposition. Some time last autumn, Mr. Necker did me the honor to desire I would have notified in the United States, that corn and flour would meet with a good sale in France. I conveyed this notice, in a letter to Mr. Jay, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as you will see by the extract of my letter published by him in an American gazette, which I have the honor to send you. I must beg leave to avail myself of your friendship and of your position, to have a communication of these facts made to the honorable Assembly of the Nation, of which you are a member, and to repeat to you those sentiments of respect and attachment, with which I have the honor to be, my dear Sir, your must obedient, and most humble servant.
I have the honor to enclose you a copy of my letter to Monsieur de La Fayette. When I called on him yesterday, he had already spoken to Monsieur de Mirabeau, who acknowledged he had been in an error in what he had advanced in the Assembly of the Nation, as to the proposition supposed to have been made by me to your Excellency, and undertook to declare his error, when the subject should be resumed by the Assembly, to whom my letter to the Marquis de La Fayette will be also read.
I have thought it a duty, Sir, thus to correct in the first moment, an error, by which your name had been compromitted by an unfounded use of mine, and shall be happy in every occasion of proving to you those sentiments of profound respect and attachment with which I have the honor to be, your Excellencys most obedient, and most humble servant.
My hotel having been lately robbed for the third time, I take the liberty of uniting my wish with that of the inhabitants of this quarter, that it might coincide with the arrangements of police, to extend to us the protection of a guard. While the Douane remained here, no accident of that kind happened, but since their removal, other houses in the neighborhood have been robbed, as well as mine. Perhaps it may lessen the difficulties of this request, that the house occupied by the people of the Douane, will lodge abundantly a corps de garde. On the one side of that house is Chaillot, on the other the Roule, on the third the Champs Elysées, where accidents are said to happen very frequently, all of which are very distant from any corps de garde.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect respect and esteem, your Excellencys most obedient, and most humble servant.
Dear Sir,Having been curious to form some estimate of the quantity of corn and flour, which have been supplied to France this year, I applied to a person in the Farms, to know upon what quantities the premium had been paid. He could not give me information, but as to the Atlantic ports, into which there have been imported from the United States, from March to May inclusive, forty-four thousand one hundred and sixteen quintals of corn, twelve thousand two hundred and twenty-one quintals of flour, making fifty-six thousand three hundred and thirty-seven quintals, in the whole. Add to this, what has been imported since May, suppose nearly twenty thousand quintals a month, and what has been furnished to the French islands, which has prevented an equal quantity being exported from France, and you will have the proportion drawn from us. Observe, that we have regular and constant markets for corn and flour, in Spain, Portugal, and all the West India islands, except the French. These take nearly our whole quantity. This year, France, the French West Indies and Canada were added. But a regular course of trade is not quitted in an instant, nor constant customers deserted for accidental ones. This is the reason that so small a proportion has come here. I am, dear Sir, with great sincerity, your affectionate friend and servant.
Dear Sir,The acknowledgment by Monsieur de Mirabeau to the National Assembly, that he had been in an error as to the offer he supposed me to have made, and the reading to them my letter, seem to be all that was requisite for any just purpose. As I was unwilling my name should be used to injure the minister, I am also unwilling it should be used to injure Monsieur de Mirabeau. I learn that his enemies in Paris are framing scandalous versions of my letter. I think, therefore, with you, it may be better to print it, and I send you a copy of it. I gave copies of it to Monsieur de Montmorin and Monsieur Necker, as was my duty.
I am, with sincere affection, my dear Sir, your friend and servant.
Dear Sir,Since my last, which was of May the 19th, I have received yours of June the 17th and 18th. I am struck with the idea of the geometrical wheelbarrow, and will beg of you a farther account, if it can be obtained. I have no news yet of my congé.
Though you have doubtless heard most of the proceedings of the States General since my last, I will take up the narration where that left it, that you may be able to separate the true from the false accounts you have heard. A good part of what was conjectured in that letter, is now become true history. A conciliatory proposition from the king having been accepted by the Nobles with such modifications as amounted to a refusal, the Commons voted it to be a refusal, and proceeded to give a last invitation to the clergy and nobles to join them, and to examine the returns of elections. This done they declared themselves the National assembly, resolved that all the subsisting taxes were illegally imposted, but that they might continue to be paid to the end of their present session and no longer. A majority of the clergy determined to accept their invitation and came and joined them. The king, by the advice of Mr. Necker, determined to hold a seance royale, and to take upon himself to decide what should be done. That decision as prepared by Necker was favorable to the Commons. The Aristocratical party made a furious effort, prevailed on the king to change the decision totally in favor of the other orders, and at the seance royale he delivered it accordingly. The Common chamber (that is the Tiers and majority of the clergy who ha joined them) bound themselves together by a solemn oath never to separate till they had accomplished the work for which they had met. Paris and Versailles were thrown into tumult and riot. The souldiers in and about them, including even the kings life guard, declared themselves openly for the Commons, the accounts from the souldiery in the provinces was not more favorable, 48 of the Nobles left their body and joined the common chamber, the mob attacked the Archbishop of Paris (a high aristocrat) under the Chateau of Versailles, a panick seised the inhabitants of the Chateau, the next day the king wrote a letter with his own hand to the Chamber of Nobles and minority of the Clergy, desiring them to join immediately the common chamber. They did so, and thus the victory of the Tiers became complete. Several days were then employed about examining returns &c. It was discovered at length that great bodies of troops and principally of the foreign corps were approaching Paris from different quarters. They arrived in the number of 25, or 30,000 men. Great inquietude took place, and two days ago the Assembly voted an address to the king for an explanation of this phenomenon and removal of the troops. His answer has not been given formally, but he verbally authorized their president to declare that these troops had nothing in view but the quiet of the Capital; and that that being once established they should be removed. The fact is that the king never saw any thing else in this measure; [but those who advised him to it, assuredly meant by the presence of the troops to give him confidence, and to take advantage of some favorable moment to surprize some act of authority from him For this purpose they had got the military command within the isle of France transferred to the Marshall de Broglio, a high flying aristocrat, cool and capable of every mischief.] But it turns out that these troops shew strong symptoms of being entirely with the people, so that nothing is apprehended from them. The National Assembly then (for that is the name they take), having shown through every stage of these transactions a coolness, wisdom, and resolution to set fire to the four corners of the kingdom and to perish with it themselves, rather than to relinquish an iota from their plan of a total change of government, are now in complete and undisputed possession of the sovereignty. The executive and aristocracy are at their feet; the mass of the nation, the mass of the clergy, and the army are with them; they have prostrated the old government, and are now beginning to build one from the foundation. A committee, charged with the arrangement of their business, gave in, two days ago, the following order of proceedings.
"1. Every government should have for its only end, the preservation of the rights of man; whence it follows, that to recall constantly the government to the end proposed, the constitution should begin by a declaration of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man.
"2. Monarchical government being proper to maintain those rights, it has been chosen by the French nation. It suits especially a great society; it is necessary for the happiness of France. The declaration of the principles of this government, then, should follow immediately the declaration of the rights of man.
"3. It results from the principles of monarchy, that the nation, to assure its own rights, has yielded particular rights to the monarch; the constitution, then, should declare, in a precise manner, the rights of both. It should begin by declaring the rights of the French nation, and then it should declare the rights of the King.
"4. The rights of the King and nation not existing but for the happiness of the individuals who compose it, they lead to an examination of the rights of citizens.
"5. The French nation not being capable of assembling individually, to exercise all its rights, it ought to be represented. It is necessary, then, to declare the form of its representation and the rights of its representatives.
"6. From the union of the powers of the nation and King, should result the enacting and execution of the laws; thus, then, it should first be determined how the laws shall be established afterwards should be considered, how they shall be executed.
"7. Laws have for their object the general administration of the kingdom, the property and the actions of the citizens. The execution of the laws which concern the general administration, requires Provincial and Municipal Assemblies. It is necessary to examine, therefore, what should be the organization of the Provincial Assemblies, and what of the Municipal.
"8. The execution of the laws which concern the property and actions of the citizens, call for the judiciary power. It should be determined how that should be confided, and then its duties and limits.
"9. For the execution of the laws and the defence of the kingdom, there exists a public force. It is necessary, then, to determine the principles which should direct it, and how it should be employed.
"Declaration of the rights of man. Principles of the monarchy. Rights of the nation. Rights of the King. Rights of the citizens.
"Organization and rights of the National Assembly. Forms necessary for the enaction of laws. Organization and functions of the Provincial and Municipal Assemblies. Duties and limits of the judiciary power. Functions and duties of the military power."
You see that these are the materials of a superb edifice, and the hands which have prepared them, are perfectly capable of putting them together, and of filling up the work of which these are only the outlines. While there are some men among them of very superior abilities, the mass possess such a degree of good sense, as enables them to decide well. I have always been afraid their numbers might lead to confusion. Twelve hundred men in one room are too many. I have still that fear. Another apprehension is, that a majority cannot be induced to adopt the trial by jury; and I consider that as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution. Mr. Paradise is the bearer of this letter. He can supply those details which it would be too tedious to write.
If my Congé comes within a few days, I shall depart in the instant : if it does not I shall put off my voiage till the Equinox is over. I am, with great esteem, dear Sir, your friend and servant.
I am honored with your favor of the 11th, and sincerely thank you for the offer of your ship, which I would certainly have embraced, had I been at liberty to go. But I have not yet received permission, and must await that. I beg you to remember me in the most friendly terms to your father. I have put off answering his letter because I expected constantly to make my voyage to America and to see him at his own house.
Great events have taken place here within these few days. The change of the ministry and the tumult of Paris consequent on that, you will have heard of. Yesterday the King went without any cortege but his two brothers to the States General, and spoke to them in very honest and conciliatory terms; such as in my opinion amounts to a surrender at discretion. The temper of the city is too much heated at present to view them in that light, and, therefore, they keep on the watch, and go on in organizing their armed Bourgeoise. But I have not a single doubt of the sincerity of the King, and there will not be another disagreeable act from him. He has promised to send away the troops.
I am with great esteem, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
Dear Sir,I am become very uneasy, lest you should have adopted some channel for the conveyance of your letters to me, which is unfaithful. I have none from you of later date than November the 25th, 1788, and of consequence, no acknowledgment of the receipt of any of mine, since that of August the 11th, 1788. Since that period, I have written to you of the following dates. 1788. August the 20th, September the 3d, 5th, 24th, November the 14th, 19th, 29th. 1789. January the 11th, 14th, 21st, February the 4th, March the 1st, 12th, 14th, 15th, May the 9th, 11th, 12th, June the 17th, 24th, 29th. I know, through another person, that you have received mine of November the 29th, and that you have written an answer; but I have never received the answer, and it is this which suggests to me the fear of some general source of miscarriage.
The capture of three French merchant ships by the Algerines, under different pretexts, has produced great sensation in the seaports of this country, and some in its government. They have ordered some frigates to be armed at Toulon to punish them. There is a possibility that this circumstance, if not too soon set to rights by the Algerines, may furnish occasion to the States General, when they shall have leisure to attend to matters of this kind, to disavow any future tributary treaty with them. These pirates respect still less their treaty with Spain, and treat the Spaniards with an insolence greater than was usual before the treaty.
The scarcity of bread begins to lessen in the southern parts of France, where the harvest has commenced. Here it is still threatening, because we have yet three weeks to the beginning of harvest, and I think there has not been three days provision beforehand in Paris, for two or three weeks past. Monsieur de Mirabeau, who is very hostile to Mr. Necker, wished to find a ground for censuring him, in a proposition to have a great quantity of flour furnished from the United States, which he supposed me to have made to Mr. Necker, and to have been refused by him; and he asked time of the States General to furnish proofs. The Marquis de La Fayette immediately gave me notice of this matter, and I wrote him a letter to disavow having ever made any such proposition to Mr. Necker, which I desired him to communicate to the States. I waited immediately on Mr. Necker and Monsieur de Montmorin, satisfied them that what had been suggested was absolutely without foundation from me; and, indeed, they had not needed this testimony. I gave them copies of my letter to the Marquis de La Fayette, which was afterwards printed. The Marquis, on the receipt of my letter, showed it to Mirabeau, who turned then to a paper from which he had drawn his information, and found he had totally mistaken it. He promised immediately that he would himself declare his error to the States General, and read to them my letter, which he did. I state this matter to you, though of little consequence in itself, because it might go to you misstated in the English papers.
Our supplies to the Atlantic ports of France, during the months of March, April and May, were only twelve thousand two hundred and twenty quintals, thirty-three pounds of flour, and forty-four thousand one hundred and fifteen quintals, forty pounds of wheat, in twenty-one vessels.
My letter of the 29th of June, brought down the proceedings of the States and government to the re-union of the orders, which took place on the 27th. Within the Assembly, matters went on well. But it was soon observed, that troops, and particularly the foreign troops, were on their march towards Paris from various quarters, and that this was against the opinion of Mr. Necker. The King was probably advised to this, under pretext of preserving peace in Paris and Versailles, and saw nothing else in the measure. That his advisers are supposed to have had in view, when he should be secured and inspirited by the presence of the troops, to take advantage of some favorable moment, and surprise him into an act of authority for establishing the declaration of the 23d of June, and perhaps dispersing the States General, is probable. The Marshal de Broglio was appointed to command all the troops within the isle of France, a high flying aristocrat, cool and capable of everything. Some of the French guards were soon arrested under other pretexts, but in reality, on account of their dispositions in favor of the national cause. The people of Paris forced the prison, released them, and sent a deputation to the States General, to solicit a pardon. The States, by a most moderate and prudent Arreté, recommended these prisoners to the King, and peace to the people of Paris. Addresses came in to them from several of the great cities, expressing sincere allegiance to the King, but a determined resolution to support the States General. On the 8th of July, they voted an address to the King to remove the troops. This piece of masculine eloquence, written by Monsieur de Mirabeau, is worth attention on account of the bold matter it expresses and discovers through the whole. The King refused to remove the troops, and said they might remove themselves, if they pleased, to Noyons or Soissons. They proceeded to fix the order in which they will take up the several branches of their future constitution, from which it appears, they mean to build it from the bottom, confining themselves to nothing in their ancient form, but a King. A declaration of rights, which forms the first chapter of their work, was then proposed by the Marquis de La Fayette. This was on the 11th. In the meantime, troops, to the number of about twenty-five or thirty thousand, had arrived, and were posted in and between Paris and Versailles. The bridges and passes were guarded. At three oclock in the afternoon, the Count de La Luzerne was sent to notify Mr. Necker of his dismission, and to enjoin him to retire instantly, without saying a word of it to anybody. He went home, dined, proposed to his wife a visit to a friend, but went in fact to his country-house at St. Ouen, and at midnight, set out from thence, as is supposed, for Brussels. This was not known till the next day, when the whole ministry was changed, except Villedeuil, of the domestic department, and Barentin, Garde des Sceaux. These changes were as follows : the Baron de Breteuil, President of the Council of Finance; and de La Galaisiere, Comptroller General in the room of Mr. Necker; the Marshal de Broglio, minister of war, and Foulon under him, in the room of Puy-Segur; Monsieur de La Vauguyon, minister of foreign affairs, instead of Monsieur de Montmorin; de La Porte, minister of marine, in place of the Count de La Luzerne; St. Priest was also removed from the Council. It is to be observed, that Luzerne and Puy-Segur had been strongly of the aristocratical party in Council; but they were not considered as equal to bear their shares in the work now to be done. For this change, however sudden it may have been in the mind of the King, was, in that of his advisers, only one chapter of a great plan, of which the bringing together the foreign troops had been the first. He was now completely in the hands of men, the principal among whom, had been noted through their lives, for the Turkish despotism of their characters, and who were associated about the King, as proper instruments for what was to be executed. The news of this change began to be known in Paris about one or two oclock. In the afternoon, a body of about one hundred German cavalry were advanced and drawn up in the Place Louis XV. and about two hundred Swiss posted at a little distance in their rear. This drew the people to that spot, who naturally formed themselves in front of the troops, at first merely to look at them. But as their numbers increased their indignation arose; they retired a few steps, posted themselves on and behind large piles of loose stone, collected in that place for a bridge adjacent to it, and attacked the horse with stones. The horse charged, but the advantageous position of the people, and the showers of stones obliged them to retire, and even to quit the field altogether, leaving one of their number on the ground. The Swiss in their rear were observed never to stir. This was the signal for universal insurrection, and this body of cavalry, to avoid being massacred, retired towards Versailles. The people now armed themselves with such weapons as they could find in armorers shops and private houses, and with bludgeons, and were roaming all night through all parts of the city, without any decided practicable object. The next day, the States pressed on the King to send away the troops, to permit the Bourgeoise of Paris to arm for the preservation of order in the city, and offered to send a deputation from their body to tranquillize them. He refused all their propositions. A committee of magistrates and electors of the city were appointed by their bodies, to take upon them its government. The mob, now openly joined by the French guards, forced the prison of St. Lazare, released all the prisoners, and took a great store of corn, which they carried to the corn market. Here they got some arms, and the French guards began to form and train them. The committee determined to raise forty-eight thousand Bourgeoise, or rather to restrain their numbers to forty-eight thousand. On the 14th, they sent one of their members (Monsieur de Corny, whom we knew in America) to the Hotel des Invalides, to ask arms for their Garde Bourgeoise. He was followed by, or he found there, a great mob. The Governor of the Invalides came out, and represented the impossibility of his delivering arms, without the orders of those from whom he received them. De Corny advised the people then to retire, and retired himself; and the people took possession of the arms. It was remarkable, that not only the Invalides themselves made no opposition, but that a body of five thousand foreign troops, encamped within four hundred yards, never stirred. Monsieur de Corny and five others were then sent to ask arms of Monsieur de Launai, Governor of the Bastile. They found a great collection of people already before the place, and they immediately planted a flag of truce, which was answered by a like flag hoisted on the parapet. The deputation prevailed on the people to fall back a little, advanced themselves to make their demand of the Governor, and in that instant a discharge from the Bastile killed four people of those nearest to the deputies. The deputies retired; the people rushed against the place, and almost in an instant were in possession of a fortification, defended by one hundred men, of infinite strength, which in other times had stood several regular sieges, and had never been taken. How they got in, has, as yet, been impossible to discover. Those who pretend to have been of the party tell so many different stories, as to destroy the credit of them all. They took all the arms, discharged the prisoners, and such of the garrison as were not killed in the first moment of fury, carried the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to the Gréve, (the place of public execution,) cut off their heads, and sent them through the city in triumph to the Palais Royal. About the same instant, a treacherous correspondence having been discovered in Monsieur de Flesselles, Prevost des Marchands, they seized him in the Hotel de Ville, where he was in the exercise of his office, and cut off his head. These events, carried imperfectly to Versailles, were the subject of two successive deputations from the States to the King, to both of which he gave dry and hard answers; for it has transpired, that it had been proposed and agitated in Council, to seize on the principal members of the States General, to march the whole army down upon Paris, and to suppress its tumults by the sword. But at night, the Duke de Liancourt forced his way into the Kings bed chamber, and obliged him to hear a full and animated detail of the disasters of the day in Paris. He went to bed deeply impressed. The decapitation of de Launai worked powerfully through the night on the whole aristocratical party, insomuch, that in the morning, those of the greatest influence on the Count dArtois, represented to him the absolute necessity that the King should give up everything to the States. This according well enough with the dispositions of the King, he went about eleven oclock, accompanied only by his brothers, to the States General, and there read to them a speech, in which he asked their interposition to re-establish order. Though this be couched in terms of some caution, yet the manner in which it was delivered, made it evident that it was meant as a surrender at discretion. He returned to the chateau a foot, accompanied by the States. They sent of a deputation, the Marquis de La Fayette at their head, to quiet Paris. He had, the same morning, been named Commandant-in-Chief of the Milice Bourgeoise, and Monsieur Bailly, former President of the States General, was called for as Prevost des Marchands. The demolition of the Bastile was now ordered, and begun. A body of the Swiss guards of the regiment of Ventimille, and the city horse guards, joined the people. The alarm at Versailles increased instead of abating. They believed that the aristocrats of Paris were under pillage and carnage, that one hundred and fifty thousand men were in arms, coming to Versailles to massacre the royal family, the court, the ministers, and all connected with them, their practices and principles. The aristocrats of the Nobles and Clergy in the States General, vied with each other in declaring how sincerely they were converted to the justice of voting by persons, and how determined to go with the nation all its lengths. The foreign troops were ordered off instantly. Every minister resigned. The King confirmed Bailly as Prevost des Marchands, wrote to Mr. Necker to recall him, sent his letter open to the States General, to be forwarded by them, and invited them to go with him to Paris the next day, to satisfy the city of his dispositions; and that night and the next morning, the Count dArtois and Monsieur de Montisson (a deputy connected with him), Madame de Polignac, Madame de Guiche, and the Count de Vaudreuil, favorites of the Queen, the Abbé de Vermont, her confessor, the Prince of Condé and Duke de Bourbon, all fled; we know not whither. The King came to Paris, leaving the Queen in consternation for his return. Omitting the less important figures of the procession, I will only observe, that the Kings carriage was in the centre, on each side of it the States General, in two ranks, a foot, and at their head the Marquis de La Fayette, as Commander-in-Chief, on horseback, and Bourgeoise guards before and behind. About sixty thousand citizens of all forms and colors, armed with the muskets of the Bastile and Invalides, as far as they would go, the rest with pistols, swords, pikes, pruning hooks, scythes, etc., lined all the streets through which the procession passed, and, with the crowds of people in the streets, doors and windows, saluted them everywhere with cries of "vive la nation;" but not a single "vive le roy" was heard. The King stopped at the Hotel de Ville. There Monsieur Bailly presented and put into his hat the popular cockade, and addressed him. The King being unprepared and unable to answer, Bailly went to him, gathered from him some scraps of sentences, and made out an answer, which he delivered to the andience as from the King. On their return, the popular cries were "vive le roy et la nation." He was conducted by a Garde Bourgeoise to his palace at Versailles, and thus concluded such an amende honorable, as no sovereign ever made, and no people ever received. Letters written with his own hand to the Marquis de La Fayette, remove the scruples of his position. Tranquillity is now restored to the capital : the shops are again opened; the people resuming their labors, and if the want of bread does not disturb our peace, we may hope a continuance of it. The demolition of the Bastile is going on, and the Milice Bourgeoise organizing and training. The ancient police of the city is abolished by the authority of the people, the introduction of the Kings troops will probably be proscribed, and a watch or city guards substituted, which shall depend on the city alone. But we cannot suppose this paroxysm confined to Paris alone. The whole country must pass successively through it, and happy if they get through it as soon and as well as Paris has done.
I went yesterday to Versailles, to satisfy myself what had passed there; for nothing can be believed but what one sees, or has from an eye witness. They believe there still, that three thousand people have fallen victims to the tumults of Paris. Mr. Short and myself have been every day among them, in order to be sure what was passing. We cannot find, with certainty, that anybody has been killed but the three before mentioned, and those who fell in the assault or defence of the Bastile. How many of the garrison were killed, nobody pretends to have ever heard. Of the assailants, accounts vary from six to six hundred. The most general belief is, that there fell about thirty. There have been many reports of instantaneous executions by the mob, on such of their body as they caught in acts of theft or robbery. Some of these may perhaps be true. There was a severity of honesty observed, of which no example has been known. Bags of money offered on various occasions through fear or guilt, have been uniformly refused by the mobs. The churches are now occupied in singing "De profundis" and "Requiems" "for the repose of the souls of the brave and valiant citizens who have sealed with their blood the liberty of the nation." Monsieur de Montmorin is this day replaced in the department of foreign affairs, and Monsieur de St. Priest is named to the home department. The gazettes of France and Leyden accompany this. I send, also, a paper (called the Point du Jour), which will give you some idea of the proceedings of the National Assembly. It is but an indifferent thing; however, it is the best.
I have the honor to be, with great esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
P.S. July 21. Mr. Necker had left Brussels for Frankfort, before the courier got there. We expect, however, to hear of him in a day or two. Monsieur le Comte de La Luzerne has resumed the department of the marine this day. Either this is an office of friendship effected by Monsieur de Montmorin, (for though they had taken different sides, their friendship continued,) or he comes in as a stop-gap, till somebody else can be found. Though very unequal to his office, all agree that he is an honest man. The Count dArtois was at Valenciennes. The Prince of Condé and Duke de Bourbon had passed that place.
1 See the paper called Point du Jour, No. 23.
Dear Sir,The annexed is a catalogue of all the books I recollect on the subject of juries. With respect to the value of this institution, I must make a general observation. We think, in America, that it is necessary to introduce the people into every department of government, as far as they are capable of exercising it; and that this is the only way to insure a long-continued and honest administration of its powers.
1. They are not qualified to exercise themselves the executive department, but they are qualified to name the person who shall exercise it. With us, therefore, they choose this officer every four years. 2. They are not qualified to legislate. With us, therefore, they only choose the legislators. 3. They are not qualified to judge questions of law, but they are very capable of judging questions of fact. In the form of juries, therefore, they determine all matters of fact, leaving to the permanent judges, to decide the law resulting from those facts. But we all know that permanent judges acquire an Esprit de corps; that being known, they are liable to be tempted by bribery; that they are misled by favor, by relationship, by a spirit of party, by a devotion to the executive or legislative power; that it is better to leave a cause to the decision of cross and pile, than to that of a judge biased to one side; and that the opinion of twelve honest jurymen gives still a better hope of right, than cross and pile does. It is in the power, therefore, of the juries, if they think permanent judges are under any bias whatever, in any cause, to take on themselves to judge the law as well as the fact. They never exercise this power but when they suspect partiality in the judges; and by the exercise of this power, they have been the firmest bulwarks of English liberty. Were I called upon to decide, whether the people had best be omitted in the legislative or judiciary department, I would say it is better to leave them out of the legislative. The execution of the laws is more important than the making them. However, it is best to have the people in all the three departments, where that is possible.
I write in great haste, my dear Sir, and have, therefore, only time to add wishes for the happiness of your country, to which a new order of things is opening; and assurances of the sincere esteem with which I have the honor to be, dear Sir, your most obedient and humble servant.
Books on the subject of Juries.Complete Juryman, or a compendium of the laws relating to Jurors.
Dear Sir,My last to you was of the 28th of June. Within a day or two after, yours of May the 9th came to hand. In the rest of Europe nothing remarkable has happened; but in France such events as will be forever memorable in history. To begin where my last left them, the King took on himself to decide the great question of voting by persons or orders, by a declaration made at a seance royale on the 23d of June. In the same declaration he inserted many other things, some good, some bad. The Tiers, undismayed, resolved the whole was a mere nullity, and proceeded as if nothing had happened. The majority of the Clergy joined them, and a small part of the Nobles. The uneasiness produced by the Kings declaration occasioned the people to collect about the palace in the evening of the same day. The King and Queen were alarmed and sent for Mr. Necker. He was conducted to and from the palace amidst the acclamations of the people. The French guards were observed to be mixed in great numbers with the people and to participate of their passions. This made so decisive an impression, that the King on the 27th wrote to the Clergy and Nobles, who had not yet joined the Tiers, recommending to them to go and join them. They did so, and it was imagined all was now settled. It was soon observed, however, that troops, and those the foreign troops, were marching towards Paris from different quarters. The States addressed the King to forbid their approach. He declared it was only to preserve the tranquillity of Paris and Versailles, and I believe he thought so. The command of those troops was given to the Marshal Broglio, and it was observed that the Baron de Breteuil was going daily to Versailles. On the 11th, there being now thirty thousand foreign troops in and between Paris and Versailles, Mr. Necker was dismissed and ordered to retire privately. The next day the whole ministry was changed except Villedeuil and Barentin. Breteuil, Broglio and Vauguyon were the principal persons named in the new. A body of cavalry were advanced into Paris to awe them. The people attacked and routed them, killing one of the cavalry and losing a French guard. The corps of French guards gathered stronger, followed the cavalry, attacked them in the street, (the rue basse des ramparts,) and killed four. (I did not know this fact with certainty when I wrote to Mr. Jay, it is therefore not in my letter. I since have it from an eyewitness.) The insurrection became now universal. The next day (the 13th) the people forced a prison and took some arms. On the 14th a committee was framed by the city, with powers corresponding to our committees of safety. They resolve to raise a city militia of forty-eight thousand men. The people attack the invalids and get a great store of arms. They then attack and carry the Bastile, cut off the Governors and Lieutenant-Governors heads and that also of the Prevost des Marchands, discovered in a treacherous correspondence. While these things were doing here, the council is said to have been agitating at Versailles a proposition to arrest a number of the members of the States, to march all the foreign troops against Paris, and suppress the tumult by the sword. But the decapitations being once known there, and that there were fifty or sixty thousand men in arms, the King went to the States, referred everything to them, and ordered away the troops. The City Committee named the Marquis de La Fayette commander-in-chief. They went on organizing their militia, the tumult continued, and a noise spread about Versailles that they were coming to massacre the court, the ministry, &c. Every minister hereupon resigned and fled, the Count dArtois, Prince of Condé, Duke de Bourbon, the family of Polignacs, the Count de Vaudreuil, Abbé Vermont, confessor of the Queen, and key-stone of all the intrigues, all fled out of the kingdom. The King agreed to recall Mr. Necker, reappointed Montmorin and St. Priest, friends of Necker, and came with the States General to Paris to satisfy the city of his dispositions. All the streets through which he passed were lined with Bourgeoise, armed with guns, pistols, pikes, pruning-hooks, scythes, and whatever they could lay hold of, about sixty thousand. The States General on foot on each side of his coach, the Marquis de La Fayette at their head, on horseback. He returned to Versailles in the same order, to the great joy of the remaining courtiers, who feared he would have been detained in Paris. The tumults in the city had pretty well subsided, but to-day they have been revived by a new incident. Foulon, one of the fugitive ministers, was taken in the country, (it is said by his own tenants,) and brought to Paris. Every possible effort of persuasion was exerted in vain to save him. He was forced from the hands of the Gardes Bourgeoises by the mob, was hung, and after severing his head, the body was dragged by the enraged populace through the principal streets of Paris. The Intendant of Paris (de Chauvigny), accused of having been in the plots with the late ministry, and who had fled, was taken at Compiegne, and a party of two hundred militia horse are now gone for him. If they bring him to Paris it will be impossible to save him. Monsieur de La Luzerne was reappointed minister of marine yesterday. Your last letter says nothing of my leave of absence. The season is so far advanced towards the Equinox, that if it comes to hand I shall not leave Europe till that be over. Indeed this scene is too interesting to be left at present. But if the permission does not come in time for my passage in the fall, the necessity of my going is so imperious, that I shall be in a most distressing dilemma.
I am, with sincere esteem and respect, dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant.
P.S. July 23. I just learn that Bertier de Chauvigny was brought to town in the night and massacred immediately.
The bearer of my letters (a servant of Mr. Morris) not going off till to-day, I am enabled to add to their contents. The spirit of tumult seemed to have subsided, when, yesterday, it was excited again, by a particular incident. Monsieur Foulon, one of the obnoxious ministry, who, as well as his brethren, had absconded, was taken in the country, and, as is said, by his own tenants, and brought to Paris. Great efforts were exerted by popular characters, to save him. He was at length forced out of the hands of the Garde Bourgeoise, hung immediately, his head cut of, and his body drawn through the principal streets of the city. The Intendant of Paris, Monsieur de Chauvigny, accused of having entered into the designs of the said ministry, has been taken at Compiegne, and a body of two hundred men on horseback have gone for him. If he be brought here, it will be difficult to save him. Indeed, it is hard to say at what distance of time the presence of one of those ministers, or of any of the most obnoxious of the fugitive courtiers, will not rekindle the same blood-thirsty spirit. I hope it is extinguished as to everybody else, and yesterdays example will teach them to keep out of its way. I add two other sheets of the Point du Jour, and am, with the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
P.S. I just now learn that Bertier de Chauvigny was brought to town last night, and massacred immediately.
I have written you lately, on the 24th of June, with a postscript of the 25th ; on the 29th of the same month; the 19th of July, with a postscript of the 21st ; and again on the a 3d. Yesterday I received yours of the 9th of March, by the way of Holland.
Mr. Necker has accepted his appointment, and will arrive to-day from Switzerland, where he had taken refuge. No other ministers have been named since my last. It is thought that Mr. Necker will choose his own associates. The tranquillity of Paris has not been disturbed since the death of Foulon and Bertier, mentioned in my last. Their militia is in a course of organization. It is impossible to know the exact state of the supplies of bread. We suppose them low and precarious, because, some days, we are allowed to buy but half or three-fourths of the daily allowance of our families. Yet as the wheat harvest must begin within ten days or a fortnight, we are in hopes there will be subsistence found till that time. This is the only source from which I should fear a renewal of the late disorders; for I take for granted, the fugitives from the wrath of their country are all safe in foreign countries. Among these, are numbered seven Princes of the house of Bourbon, and six ministers; the seventh (the Marshal de Broglio), being shut up in the fortified town of Metz, strongly garrisoned with foreign soldiers. I observed to you, in a preceding letter, that the storm which had begun in Paris, on the change of the ministry, would have to pass over the whole country, and consequently would, for a short time, occasion us terrible details from the different parts of it. Among these, you will find a horrid one retailed from Vesoul, in French Compté. The atrociousness of the fact would dispose us rather to doubt the truth of the evidence on which it rests, however regular that appears. There is no question, that a number of people were blown up; but there are reasons for suspecting that it was by accident and not design. It is said the owner of the chateau sold powder by the pound, which was kept in the cellar of the house blown up; and it is possible, some one of the guests may have taken this occasion to supply himself, and been too careless in approaching the mass. Many idle stories have also been propagated and believed here, against the English, as that they have instigated the late tumults with money, that they had taken or were preparing to take Cherbourg, Brest, &c.; and even reasonable men have believed, or pretended to believe, all these. The British Ambassador has thought it necessary to disavow them in a public letter, which you will find in one of the papers accompanying this.
I have lately had an opportunity of knowing with certainty, the present state of the King of England. His recovery was slow; he passed through a stage of profound melancholy; but this has at length dissipated, and he is at present perfectly re-established. He talks now as much as ever, on the same trifling subjects, and has recovered even his habitual inquisitiveness into the small news of the families about him. His health is also good, though he is not as fleshy as he used to be. I have multiplied my letters to you lately, because the scene has been truly interesting ; so much so, that had I received my permission to pay my projected visit to my own country, I should have thought, and should still think it my duty to defer it awhile. I presume it cannot now be long, before I receive your definitive answer to my request. I send herewith the public papers, as usual; and have the honor to be, with the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
Dear Sir,Since your last of March the 27th, I have only written that of May the 5th. The cause of this long silence, on both parts, has been the expectation I communicated to you of embarking for America. In fact, I have expected permission for this, every hour since the month of March, and, therefore, always thought that by putting off writing to you a few days, my letter, while it should communicate the occurrences of the day, might be a letter of adieu. Should my permission now arrive, I should put off my departure till after the equinox. They write me that my not receiving it, has proceeded from the ceasing of the old government in October last, and the organization of the higher departments in the new, which had not yet taken place when my last letters came away. Bills had been brought in for establishing departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance, and War. The last would certainly be given to General Knox. Mr. Jay would probably have his choice of the first and second; and it is supposed Hamilton would have that which Mr. Jay declined. Some thought Mr. Jay would prefer and obtain the head of the law department, for which Wilson would be a competitor. In such a case, some have supposed C. Thompson would ask the Foreign Affairs. The Senate and Representatives differed about the title of the President. The former wanted to style him "His Highness, George Washington, President of the United States, and Protector of their liberties." The latter insisted and prevailed, to give no title but that of office, to wit, "George Washington, President of the United States." I hope the terms of Excellency, Honor, Worship, Esquire, forever disappear from among us, from that moment : I wish that of Mr. would follow them. In the impost bill, the Representatives had, by almost an unanimous concurrence, made a difference between nations in treaty with us, and those not in treaty. The Senate had struck out this difference and lowered all the duties. Quære, whether the Representatives would yield ? Congress were to proceed about the 1st of June to propose amendments to the new Constitution. The principal would be, the annexing a declaration of rights to satisfy the mind of all, on the subject of their liberties. They waited the arrival of Brown, delegate from Kentucky, to take up the receiving that district as a fourteenth State. The only objections apprehended, were from the partisans of Vermont, who might insist on both coming in together. This would produce a delay, though probably not a long one.
To detail to you the events of this country, would require a volume. It would be useless, too; because those given in the Leyden gazette, though not universally true, have so few and such unimportant errors mixed with them, that you may have a general faith in them. I will rather give you, therefore, what that paper cannot give, the views of the prevailing power, as far as they can be collected from conversation and writings. They will distribute the powers of government into three parts, legislative, judiciary, and executive. The legislative will certainly have no hereditary branch, and probably not even a select one (like our Senate). If they divide it into two chambers at all, it will be by breaking the representative body into two equal halves by lot. But very many are for a single House, and particularly the Turgotists. The imperfection of their legislative body, I think, will be, that not a member of it will be chosen by the people directly. Their representation will be an equal one, in which every man will elect and be elected as a citizen, not as of a distinct order. Quære, whether they will elect placemen and pensioners ? Their legislature will meet periodically, and sit at their own will, with a power in the executive to call them extraordinarily, in case of emergencies. There is a considerable division of sentiment whether the executive shall have a negative on the laws. I think they will determine to give such a negative, either absolute or qualified. In the judiciary, the parliaments will be suppressed, less numerous judiciary bodies instituted, and trial by jury established in criminal, if not in civil cases. The executive power will be left entire in the hands of the King. They will establish the responsibility of ministers, gifts and appropriations of money by the National Assembly alone; consequently, a civil list, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of commerce and industry, freedom of person against arbitrary arrests, and modifications, if not a total prohibition of military agency in civil cases. I do not see how they can prohibit altogether the aid of the military in cases of riot, and yet I doubt whether they can descend from the sublimity of ancient military pride, to let a Marechal of France with his troops, be commanded by a Magistrate. They cannot conceive that General Washington, at the head of his army, during the late war, could have been commanded by a common Constable to go as his posse comitatus, to suppress a mob, and that Count Rochambeau, when he was arrested at the head of his army by a sheriff, must have gone to jail if he had not given bail to appear in court. Though they have gone astonishing lengths, they are not yet thus far. It is probable, therefore, that not knowing how to use the military as a civil weapon, they will do too much or too little with it.
I have said that things will be so and so. Understand by this, that these are only my conjectures, the plan of the constitution not being proposed yet, much less agreed to. Tranquillity is pretty well established in the capital; though the appearance of any of the refugees here would endanger it. The Baron de Besenval is kept away; so is M. de la Vauguyon. The latter was so short a time a member of the obnoxious administration, that probably he might not be touched were he here. Seven Princes of the house of Bourbon, and seven ministers, fled into foreign countries, is a wonderful event indeed.
I have the honor to be, with great respect and attachment, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
I am honored with your favor of June the 19th informing me that permission is given me to make a short visit to my native country, for which indulgence I beg leave to return my thanks to the President, and to yourself, Sir, for the expedition with which you were so good as to forward it, after it was obtained. Being advised that October is the best month of the autumn for a passage to America, I shall wish to sail about the first of that month; and as I have a family with me, and their baggage is considerable, I must endeavor to find a vessel bound directly for Virginia, if possible.
My last letters to you have been of the 5th and 12th instant. Since these, I received information from our bankers in Holland, that they had money in hand sufficient to answer the demands for the foreign officers, and for the captives; and that moreover, the residue of the bonds of the last loan were engaged. I hereupon wrote to Mr. Grand for an exact estimate of the sum necessary for the officers. He had stated it to me as being forty-five thousand six hundred and fifty-two livres eleven sous six deniers, a year, when I was going to Holland to propose the loan to Mr. Adams, and at that sum, you will see it was stated in the estimate we sent you from Amsterdam. He now informed me it was sixty thousand three hundred and ninety-three livres seventeen sous ten deniers, a year. I called on him for an explanation. He showed me that his first information agreed with the only list of the officers and sums then in his possession, and his last with a new list lately sent from the treasury board in which other officers were set down, who had been omitted in the first. I wrote to our bankers an account of this error, and desired to know whether, after reserving the money necessary for the captives, they were in condition to furnish two hundred and fifty-four thousand livres for the officers. They answered me by sending the money, and the additional sum of twenty-six thousand livres, to complete the business of the medals. I delivered the bills to Messrs. Grand and Company, to negotiate and pay away; and the arrears to the officers to the first day of the present year, are now in a course of payment. While on this subject, I will ask that an order may be forwarded to the bankers in Holland to furnish, and to Mr. Grand to pay, the arrearages which may be due on the first of January next. The money being in hand, it would be a pity that we should fail in payment a single day, merely for want of an order. The bankers further give it as their opinion, that our credit is so much advanced on the exchange of Amsterdam, that we may probably execute any money arrangements we may have occasion for, on this side the water. I have the honor to send you a copy of their letter. They have communicated to me apprehensions, that another house was endeavoring to obtain the business of our government. Knowing of no such endeavors myself, I have assured them that I am a stranger to any applications on the subject. At the same time, I cannot but suspect that this jealousy has been one of the spurs, at least, to the prompt completion of our loan. The spirited proceedings of the new Congress in the business of revenue, has doubtless been the principal one.
An engagement has taken place between the Russian and Swedish fleets in the Baltic, which has been not at all decisive, no ship having been lost on either side. The Swedes claim a victory, because they remained in the field till the Russians quitted it. The latter effected a junction soon after with another part of their fleet, and being now about ten ships strongest, the Swedes retired into port, and it is imagined they will not appear again under so great disparity; so that the campaign by sea is supposed to be finished. Their commerce will be at the mercy of their enemies; but they have put it out of the power of the Russians to send any fleet to the Mediterranean this year.
A revolution has been effected very suddenly in the bishopric of Liege. Their constitution had been changed by force, by the reigning sovereign, about one hundred years ago. This subject had been lately revived and discussed in print. The people were at length excited to assemble tumultuously. They sent for their Prince, who was at his country seat, and required him to come to the town house to hear their grievances. Though in the night, he came instantly, and was obliged to sign a restitution of their ancient constitution, which took place on the spot, and all became quiet without a drop of blood spilt. This fact is worthy notice, only as it shows the progress of the spirit of revolution.
No act of violence has taken place in Paris since my last, except on account of the difference between the French and Swiss guards, which gave rise to occasional single combats, in which five or six were killed. The difference is made up. Some misunderstandings had arisen between the committees of the different districts of Paris, as to the form of the future municipal government. These gave uneasiness for awhile, but have been also reconciled. Still there is such a leaven of fermentation remaining in the body of the people, that acts of violence are always possible, and are quite unpunishable; there being, as yet, no judicature which can venture to act in any case, however small or great. The country is becoming more calm. The embarrassments of the government, for want of money, are extreme. The loan of thirty millions proposed by Mr. Necker, has not succeeded at all. No taxes are paid. A total stoppage of all payment to the creditors of the State is possible every moment. These form a great mass in the city as well as country, and among the lower class of people, too, who have been used to carry their little savings of their service into the public funds upon life rents of five, ten, twenty guineas a year, and many of whom have no other dependence for daily subsistence. A prodigious number of servants are now also thrown out of employ by domestic reforms, rendered necessary by the late events. Add to this, the want of bread, which is extreme. For several days past, a considerable proportion of the people have been without bread altogether; for though the new harvest is begun, there is neither water nor wind to grind the grain. For some days past the people have besieged the doors of the bakers, scrambled with one another for bread, collected in squads all over the city, and need only some slight incident to lead them to excesses which may end in, nobody can tell what. The danger from the want of bread, however, which is the most imminent, will certainly lessen in a few days. What turn that may take which arises from the want of money, is difficult to be foreseen. Mr. Necker is totally without influence in the National Assembly, and is, I believe, not satisfied with this want of importance. That Assembly has just finished their bill of rights. The question will then be, whether to take up first the constitution or the business of finance.
No plan of a constitution has been yet given in. But I can state to you the outlines of what the leading members have in contemplation. The executive power in a hereditary King, with power of dissolving the legislature, and a negative on their laws; his authority in forming treaties to be greatly restrained. The legislative to be a single House of representatives, chosen for two or three years. They propose a body whom they call a Senate, to be chosen by the Provincial Assemblies, as our federal Senate is, but with no power of negativing or amending laws; they may only remonstrate on them to the representatives, who will decide by a simple majority the ultimate event of the law. This body will, therefore, be a mere council of revision. It is proposed that they shall be of a certain age and property, and be for life. They may make them also their court of impeachment. They will suppress the parliaments, and establish a system of judicature somewhat like that of England, with trial by jury in criminal cases, perhaps also in civil. Each province will have a subordinate provincial government, and the great cities, a municipal one on a free basis. These are the ideas and views of the most distinguished members. But they may suffer great modifications from the Assembly; and the longer the delay, the greater will be the modifications. Considerable interval having taken place since any popular execution, the aristocratic party is raising its head. They are strengthened by a considerable defection from the patriots, in consequence of the general suppression of the abuses of the 4th of August, in which many were interested. Another faction, too, of the most desperate views, has acquired strength in the Assembly, as well as out of it. These wish to dethrone the reigning branch, and transfer the crown to the Duke dOrleans. The members of this faction are mostly persons of wicked and desperate fortunes, who have nothing at heart but to pillage from the wreck of their country. The Duke himself is as unprincipled as his followers; sunk in debaucheries of the lowest kind, and incapable of quitting them for business; not a fool, yet not head enough to conduct anything. In fact, I suppose him used merely as a tool, because of his immense wealth, and that he acquired a certain degree of popularity by his first opposition to the government, then credited to him as upon virtuous motives. He is certainly borrowing money on a large scale. He is in understanding with the court of London, where he had been long in habits of intimacy. The ministry here are apprehensive, that that ministry will support his designs by war. I have no idea of this, but no doubt, at the same time, that they will furnish him money liberally to aliment a civil war, and prevent the regeneration of this country.
It was suggested to me, some days ago, that the court of Versailles were treating with that of London, for a surrender of their West India possessions, in consideration of a great sum of money to relieve their present distress. Every principle of common sense was in opposition to this fact; yet it was so affirmed as to merit inquiry. I became satisfied the government had never such an idea; but that the story was not without foundation altogether; that something like this was in contemplation between the faction of Orleans and the court of London, as a means of obtaining money from that court. In a conversation with the Count de Montmorin, two days ago, he told me their colonies were speaking a language which gave them uneasiness, and for which there was no foundation. I asked him if he knew anything of what I have just mentioned. He appeared unapprized of it, but to see at once that it would be a probable speculation between two parties circumstanced and principled as those two are. I apologized to him for the inquiries I had made into this business, by observing that it would be much against our interest, that any one power should monopolize all the West India islands. "Parde, assurement," was his answer.
The emancipation of their islands is an idea prevailing in the minds of several members of the National Assembly, particularly those most enlightened and most liberal in their views. Such a step by this country would lead to other emancipations or revolutions in the same quarter. I enclose you some papers received from Mr. Carmichael, relative to the capture of one of our vessels by a Morocco cruiser, and restitution by the Emperor. I shall immediately write to M. Chiappe, to express a proper sense of the Emperors friendly dispositions to us. I forward also the public papers to the present date; and have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
Dear Sir,My last to you was of July the 22d. Since that, I have received yours of May the 27th, June 13th and 30th. The tranquillity of the city has not been disturbed since my last. Dissensions between the French and Swiss guards occasioned some private combats, in which five or six were killed. These dissensions are made up. The want of bread for some days past, has greatly endangered the peace of the city. Some get a little, some none at all. The poor are the best served, because they besiege perpetually the doors of the bakers. Notwithstanding this distress, and the palpable importance of the city administration to furnish bread to the city, it was not till yesterday, that general leave was given to the bakers to go into the country and buy flour for themselves as they can. This will soon relieve us, because the wheat harvest is well advanced. Never was there a country where the practice of governing too much, had taken deeper root and done more mischief. Their declaration of rights is finished. If printed in time, I will enclose a copy with this. It is doubtful whether they will now take up the finance or the constitution first. The distress for money endangers everything. No taxes are paid, and no money can be borrowed. Mr. Necker was yesterday to give in a memoir to the Assembly, on this subject. I think they will give him leave to put into execution any plan he pleases, so as to debarrass themselves of this, and take up that of the constitution. No plan is yet reported; but the leading members (with some small difference of opinion) have in contemplation the following : The executive power in a hereditary King, with a negative on laws, and power to dissolve the legislature; to be considerably restrained in the making of treaties, and limited in his expenses. The legislative is a House of representatives. They propose a Senate also, chosen on the plan of our federal Senate by the Provincial Assemblies, but to be for life, of a certain age (they talk of forty years), and certain wealth (four or five hundred guineas a year), but to have no other power against the laws but to remonstrate against them to the representatives, who will then determine their fate by a simple majority. This, you will readily perceive, is a mere council of revision, like that of New York, which, in order to be something, must form an alliance with the King, to avail themselves of his veto. The alliance will be useful to both, and to the nation. The representatives to be chosen every two or three years. The judiciary system is less prepared than any other part of the plan; however, they will abolish the parliaments, and establish an order of judges and justices, general and provincial, a good deal like ours, with trial by jury in criminal cases certainly, perhaps also in civil. The provinces will have Assemblies for their provincial government, and the cities a municipal body for municipal government, all founded on the basis of popular election. These subordinate governments, though completely dependent on the general one, will be entrusted with almost the whole of the details which our State governments exercise. They will have their own judiciary, final in all but great cases, the executive business will principally pass through their hands, and a certain local legislature will be allowed them. In short, ours has been professedly their model, in which such changes are made as a difference of circumstances rendered necessary, and some others neither necessary nor advantageous, but into which men will ever run, when versed in theory and new in the practice of government, when acquainted with man only as they see him in their books and not in the world. This plan will undoubtedly undergo changes in the Assembly, and the longer it is delayed, the greater will be the changes; for that Assembly, or rather the patriotic part of it, hooped together heretofore by a common enemy, are less compact since their victory. That enemy (the civil and ecclesiastical aristocracy) begins to raise its head. The lees, too, of the patriotic party, of wicked principles and desperate fortunes, hoping to pillage something in the wreck of their country, are attaching themselves to the faction of the Duke of Orleans; that faction is caballing with the populace, and intriguing at London, the Hague, and Berlin, and have evidently in view the transfer of the crown to the Duke of Orleans. He is a man of moderate understanding, of no principle, absorbed in low vice, and incapable of extracting himself from the filth of that, to direct anything else. His name and his money, therefore, are mere tools in the hands of those who are duping him. Mirabeau is their chief. They may produce a temporary confusion, and even a temporary civil war, supported, as they will be, by the money of England; but they cannot have success ultimately. The King, the mass of the substantial people of the whole country, the army, and the influential part of the clergy, form a firm phalanx which must prevail. Should those delays which necessarily attend the deliberations of a body of one thousand two hundred men, give time to this plot to ripen and burst, so as to break up the Assembly before anything definite is done, a constitution, the principles of which are pretty well settled in the minds of the Assembly, will be proposed by the national militia (that is by their commander), urged by the individual members of the Assembly, signed by the King, and supported by the nation, to prevail till circumstances shall permit its revision and more regular sanction. This I suppose the pis aller of their affairs, while their probable event is a peaceable settlement of them. They fear a war from England, Holland, and Prussia. I think England will give money, but not make war. Holland would soon be a fire, internally, were she to be embroiled in external difficulties. Prussia must know this, and act accordingly.
It is impossible to desire better dispositions towards us than prevail in this Assembly. Our proceedings have been viewed as a model for them on every occasion; and though in the heat of debate, men are generally disposed to contradict every authority urged by their opponents, ours has been treated like that of the Bible, open to explanation, but not to question. I am sorry that in the moment of such a disposition, anything should come from us to check it. The placing them on a mere footing with the English, will have this effect. When of two nations, the one has engaged herself in a ruinous war for us, has spent her blood and money to save us, has opened her bosom to us in peace, and received us almost on the footing of her own citizens, while the other has moved heaven, earth, and hell to exterminate us in war, has insulted us in all her councils in peace, shut her doors to us in every part where her interests would admit it, libelled us in foreign nations, endeavored to poison them against the reception of our most precious commodities; to place these two nations on a footing, is to give a great deal more to one than to the other, if the maxim be true, that to make unequal quantities equal, you must add more to one than the other. To say, in excuse, that gratitude is never to enter into the motives of national conduct, is to revive a principle which has been buried for centuries with its kindred principles of the lawfulness of assassination, poison, perjury, &c. All of these were legitimate principles in the dark ages which intervened between ancient and modern civilization, but exploded and held in just horror in the eighteenth century. I know but one code of morality for men, whether acting singly or collectively. He who says I will be a rogue when I act in company with a hundred others, but an honest man when I act alone, will be believed in the former assertion, but not in the latter. I would say with the poet, "hic niger est, hunc tu Romane cavato." If the morality of one man produces a just line of conduct in him, acting individually, why should not the morality of one hundred men produce a just line of conduct in them, acting together ? But I indulge myself in these reflections, because my own feelings run me into them; with you they were always acknowledged. Let us hope that our new government will take some other occasions to show, that they mean to proscribe no virtue from the canons of their conduct with other nations. In every other instance, the new government has ushered itself to the world as honest, masculine, and dignified. It has shown genuine dignity, in my opinion, in exploding adulatory titles; they are the offerings of abject baseness, and nourish that degrading vice in the people.
I must now say a word on the declaration of rights, you have been so good as to send me. I like it, as far as it goes; but I should have been for going further. For instance, the following alterations and additions would have pleased me : Article 4. "The people shall not be deprived of their right to speak, to write, or otherwise to publish anything but false facts affecting injuriously the life, liberty, property or reputation of others, or affecting the peace of the confederacy with foreign nations. Article 7. All facts put in issue before any judicature, shall be tried by jury, except, 1, in cases of admiralty jurisdiction, wherein a foreigner shall be interested; 2, in cases cognizable before a court martial, concerning only the regular officers and soldiers of the United States, or members of the militia in actual service in time of war or insurrection; and 3, in impeachments allowed by the constitution. Article 8. No person shall be held in confinement more than ---- days after he shall have demanded and been refused a writ of habeas corpus by the judge appointed by law, nor more than ---- days after such a writ shall have been served on the person holding him in confinement, and no order given on due examination for his remandment or discharge, nor more than ---- hours in any place at a greater distance than ---- miles from the usual residence of some judge authorized to issue the writ of habeas corpus; nor shall that writ be suspended for any term exceeding one year, nor in any place more than ---- miles distant from the State or encampment of enemies or of insurgents. Article 9. Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature, and their own inventions in the arts, for a term not exceeding ---- years, but for no longer term, and no other purpose. Article 10. All troops of the United States shall stand ipso facto disbanded, at the expiration of the term for which their pay and subsistence shall have been last voted by Congress, and all officers and soldiers, not natives of the United States, shall be incapable of serving in their armies by land, except during a foreign war." These restrictions I think are so guarded, as to hinder evil only. However, if we do not have them now, I have so much confidence in my countrymen, as to be satisfied that we shall have them as soon as the degeneracy of our government shall render them necessary.
I have no certain news of Paul Jones. I understand only, in a general way, that some persecution on the part of his officers occasioned his being called to St. Petersburg, and that though protected against them by the Empress, he is not yet restored to his station. Silas Deane is coming over to finish his days in America, not having one sou to subsist on, elsewhere. He is a wretched monument of the consequences of a departure from right. I will, before my departure, write Colonel Lee fully the measures I have pursued to procure success in his business, and which as yet offer little hope; and I shall leave it in the hands of Mr. Short to be pursued, if any prospect opens on him. I propose to sail from Havre as soon after the first of October as I can get a vessel; and shall consequently leave this place a week earlier than that. As my daughters will be with me, and their baggage somewhat more than that of mere voyageures, I shall endeavor, if possible, to obtain a passage for Virginia directly. Probably I shall be there by the last of November. If my immediate attendance at New York should be requisite for any purpose, I will leave them with a relation near Richmond, and proceed immediately to New York. But as I do not foresee any pressing purpose for that journey immediately on my arrival, and as it will be a great saving of time, to finish at once in Virginia, so as to have no occasion to return there after having once gone to the northward; I expect to proceed to my own house directly. Staving there two months (which I believe will be necessary), and allowing for the time I am on the road, I may expect to be at New York in February, and to embark from thence or some eastern port.
You ask me if I would accept any appointment on that side of the water ? You know the circumstances which led me from retirement, step by step, and from one nomination to another, up to the present. My object is a return to the same retirement; whenever, therefore, I quit the present, it will not be to engage in any other office, and most especially any one which would require a constant residence from home. The books I have collected for you will go off for Havre in three or four days, with my baggage. From that port, I shall try to send them by a direct occasion to New York. I am, with great and sincere esteem, dear Sir, your affectionate friend and servant.
P.S. I just now learn that Mr. Necker proposed yesterday to the National Assembly a loan of eighty millions, on terms more tempting to the lender than the former, and that they approved it, leaving him to arrange the details, in order that they might occupy themselves at once about the constitution.
Dear Sir,I have duly received your favor by Mr. Cutting, enclosing the paper from Doctor Trumbull, for which I am very thankful. The conjecture that inhabitants may have been carried from the coast of Africa to that of America, by the trade winds, is possible enough; and its probability would be greatly strengthened by ascertaining a similarity of language, which I consider as the strongest of all proofs of consanguinity among nations. Still a question would remain between the red men of the eastern and western sides of the Atlantic, which is the stock, and which the shoot ? If a fact be true, which I suspect to be true, that there is a much greater number of radical languages among those of America than among those of the other hemisphere, it would be a proof of superior antiquity, which I can conceive no arguments strong enough to overrule.
When I received your letter, the time of my departure was too near to permit me to obtain information from Constantinople, relative to the demand and price of rice there. I, therefore, wrote to a merchant at Versailles, concerned in the Levant trade, for the prices current of rice at Constantinople and at Marseilles for several years past. He has sent me only the present price at Marseilles, and that of a particular cargo at Constantinople. I send you a copy of his letter. The Algerines form an obstacle; but the object of our commerce in the Mediterranean is so immense, that we ought to surmount that obstacle, and I believe it could be done by means in our power, and which, instead of fouling us with the dishonorable and criminal baseness of France and England, will place us in the road to respect with all the world.
I have obtained, and enclose to you, a state of all the rice imported into this country in the course of one year, which shows its annual consumption to be between eighty-one and eighty-two thousand quintals. I think you may supplant all the other furnishing States, except as to what is consumed at Marseilles and its neighborhood. In fact, Paris is the place of main consumption. Havre, therefore, is the port of deposit, where you ought to have one or two honest, intelligent and active consignees. The ill success of a first or second experiment should not damp the endeavors to open this market fully, but the obstacles should be forced by perseverance. I have obtained from different quarters seeds of the dry rice; but having had time to try them, I find they will not vegetate, having been too long kept. I have still several other expectations from the East Indies. If this rice be as good, the object of health will render it worth experiment with you. Cotton is a precious resource, and which cannot fail with you. I wish the cargo of olive plants sent by the way of Baltimore, and that which you will perceive my correspondent is preparing now to send, may arrive to you in good order. This is the object for the patriots of your country; for that tree once established there, will be the source of the greatest wealth and happiness. But to insure success, perseverance may be necessary. An essay or two may fail. I think, therefore, that an annual sum should be subscribed, and it need not be a great one. A common country laborer should be engaged to make it his sole occupation to prepare and pack plants and berries at Marseilles, and in the autumn to go with them himself through the canal of Languedoc to Bordeaux, and there to stay with them till he can put them on board a vessel bound directly for Charleston; and this repeated annually, till you have a sufficient stock insured, to propagate from without further importation. I should guess that fifty guineas a year would do this, and if you think proper to set such a subscription afoot, write me down for ten guineas of the money, yearly, during my stay in France, and offer my superintendence of the business on this side the water, if no better can be had.
Mr. Cutting does full justice to the honorable dispositions of the legislature of South Carolina towards their foreign creditors. None have yet come into the propositions sent to me, except the Van Staphorsts.
The danger of famine here, has not ceased with a plentiful harvest. A new and unskilful administration has not yet got into the way of bringing regular supplies to the Capital. We are in danger of hourly insurrection for the want of bread; and an insurrection once begun for that cause, may associate itself with those discontented for other causes, and produce incalculable events. But if the want of bread does not produce a commencement of disorder, I am of opinion the other discontents will be stifled, and a good and free constitution established without opposition. In fact, the mass of the people, the clergy and army (excepting the higher orders of the three bodies), are in as compact an union as can be. The National Assembly have decided that their executive shall be hereditary, and shall have a suspensive negative on the laws; that the legislature shall be of one House, annual in its sessions and biennial in its elections. Their declaration of rights will give you their other general views. I am just on my departure for Virginia, where the arrangement of my affairs will detain me the winter; after which (say in February) I shall go on to New York, to embark from some northern port for France. In the meanwhile and always, I am, with great and sincere esteem, dear Sir, your friend and servant.
I had the honor of addressing you on the 30th of the last month. Since that, I have taken the liberty of consigning to you a box of officers muskets containing half a dozen, made by the person and on the plan which I mentioned to you in a letter which I cannot turn to at this moment, but I think it was of the year 1785. A more particular account of them you will find in the enclosed copy of a letter which I have written to General Knox. The box is marked T.J. No. 36, is gone to Havre, and will be forwarded to you by the first vessel bound to New York, by Mr. Nathaniel Cutting, an American gentleman establishing himself there.
Recalling to your mind the account I gave you of the number and size of ships fitted out by the English last year, for the northern whale fishery, and comparing with it what they have fitted out this year, for the same fishery, the comparison will stand thus :
Years .. Vessels .... Tons ..... Men
1788 ..... 255 ..... 75,436 ... 10,710
1789 ..... 178 ..... 51,473 .... 7,476
Difference : 77 ... 23,963 .... 3,234
By which you will perceive, that they have lost a third of that fishery in one year, which I think almost entirely, if not quite, ascribable to the shutting the French ports against their oil. I have no account of their southern fishery of the present year.
As soon as I was informed that our bankers had the money ready for the redemption of our captives, I went to the General of the order of the Holy Trinity, who retained all his dispositions to aid us in that business. Having a very confidential agent at Marseilles, better acquainted than himself with the details, he wrote to him for his opinion and information on the subject. I enclose you a copy of his answer, the original of which was communicated to me. I thereupon have authorized the General to go as far as three thousand livres a head, for our captives, and for this purpose, to adopt the plan proposed, of sending one of his own religion at our expense, (which will be small,) or any other plan he thinks best. The honesty and goodness of his character places us in safety in his hands. To leave him without any hesitation in engaging himself for such a sum of money, it was necessary to deposit it in a bankers hands here Mr. Grands were agreeable to him, and I have, therefore, desired our banker at Amsterdam, to remit it here. I do not apprehend, in the progress of the present revolution, anything like a general bankruptcy which should pervade the whole class of bankers. Were such an event to appear imminent, the excessive caution of the house of Grand and Company, establishes it in the general opinion as the last that would give way, and consequently would give time to withdraw this money from their hands. Mr. Short will attend to this, and will withdraw the money on the first well-founded appearance of danger. He has asked me what he shall do with it ? Because it is evident, that when Grand can not be trusted, no other individual at Paris can, and a general bankruptcy can only be the effect of such disorders, as would render every private house an insecure deposit. I have not hesitated to say to him, in such an event, "pay it to the government." In this case, it becomes only a change of destination and no loss at all. But this has passed between us for greater caution only, and on the worst case supposable ; for though a suspension of payment by government might affect the bankers a little, I doubt if any of them have embarked so much in the hands of government as to endanger failure, and especially as they have had such long warning.
You will have known, that the ordinance passed by M. de Chillon in St. Domingo, for opening ports to our importations in another part of the island, was protested against by Marbois. He had always led the Count de La Luzerne by the nose, while Governor of that island. Marbois representations, and Luzernes prepossessions against our trade with their colonies, occasioned him, as minister of that department, not only to reverse the ordinance, but to recall Chillon and send out a successor. Chillon has arrived here, and having rendered himself very popular in the islands, their deputies in the National Assembly have brought the question before them. The Assembly has done nothing more, as yet, than to appoint a committee of inquiry. So much of Chillons ordinance as admitted the importation of our provisions, is continued for a time. M. de Marbois, too, is recalled, I know not why or how. M. de La Luzernes conduct will probably come under view only incidentally to the general question urged by the colony deputies, whether they shall not be free in future, to procure provisions where they can procure them cheapest. But the deputies are disposed to treat M. de La Luzerne roughly. This, with the disgrace of his brother, the Bishop de Langres, turned out of the presidentship of the National Assembly, for partiality in office to the aristocratic principles, and the disfavor of the Assembly towards M. de La Luzerne himself, as having been formerly of the plot (as they call it) with Breteuil and Broglio, will probably occasion him to be out of office soon.
The Treasury board have no doubt attended to the necessity of giving timely orders for the payment of the February interest at Amsterdam. I am well informed that our credit is now the first at that exchange, (England not borrowing at present). Our five per cent. bonds have risen to ninety-seven and ninety-nine. They have been heretofore at ninety-three. There are, at this time, several companies and individuals here, in England and Holland, negotiating to sell large parcels of our liquidated debt. A bargain was concluded by one of these the other day, for six hundred thousand dollars. In the present state of our credit, every dollar of this debt will probably be transferred to Europe within a short time.
September the 20th. The combination of bankers and other ministerial tools, had led me into the error (when I wrote my last letter) into which they had led most people, that the loan lately opened here went on well. The truth is, that very little has been borrowed, perhaps not more than six or eight millions. The King and his ministers were yesterday to carry their plate to the mint. The ladies are giving up their jewels to the National Assembly. A contribution of plate in the time of Louis XV. is said to have earned about eight millions to the treasury. Plate is much more common now, and therefore, if the example prevail now in the same degree it did then, it will produce more. The contribution of jewels will hardly be general, and will be unproductive. Mr. Necker is, on the 25th, to go to the Assembly, to make some proposition. The hundredth penny is talked of.
The Assembly proceeds slowly in the forming their constitution. The original vice of their numbers causes this, as well as a tumultuous manner of doing business. They have voted that the elections of the legislature shall be biennial; that it shall be of a single body; but they have not yet decided what shall be its number, or whether they shall be all in one room, or in two, (which they call a division into sections). They have determined that the King shall have a suspensive and iterative veto; that is, that after negativing a law, it cannot be presented again till after a new election. If he negatives it then, it cannot be presented a third time till after another new election. If it be then presented, he is obliged to pass it. This is perhaps justly considered as a more useful negative than an absolute one, which a King would be afraid to use. Mr. Neckers influence with the Assembly is nothing at all. Having written to them, by order of the King, on the subject of the veto, before it was decided, they refused to let his letter be read. Again, lately, when they desired the sanction of the King to their proceedings of the fourth of August, he wrote in the Kings name a letter to them, remonstrating against an immediate sanction to the whole; but they persisted, and the sanction was given. His disgust at this want of influence, together with the great difficulties of his situation, make it believed that he is desirous of resigning. The public stocks were extremely low the day before yesterday. The caisse descompte at three thousand six hundred and forty, and the loan of one hundred and twenty-five millions, of 1784, was at fifteen per cent. loss. Yesterday they rose a little.
The sloth of the Assembly (unavoidable from their number) has done the most sensible injury to the public cause. The patience of a people who have less of that quality than any other nation in the world, is worn thread-bare. Time has been given to the aristocrats to recover from their panic, to cabal, to sow dissensions in the Assembly, and distrust out of it. It has been a misfortune, that the King and aristocracy together have not been able to make a sufficient resistance, to hoop the patriots in a compact body. Having no common enemy of such force as to render their union necessary, they have suffered themselves to divide. The Assembly now consists of four distinct parties. 1. The aristocrats, comprehending the higher members of the clergy, military, nobility, and the parliaments of the whole kingdom. This forms a head without a body. 2. The moderate royalists, who wish for a constitution nearly similar to that of England. 3. The republicans, who are willing to let their first magistracy be hereditary, but to make it very subordinate to the legislature, and to have that legislature consist of a single chamber. 4. The faction of Orleans. The second and third descriptions are composed of honest, well-meaning men, differing in opinion only, but both wishing the establishment of as great a degree of liberty as can be preserved. They are considered together as constituting the patriotic part of the Assembly, and they are supported by the soldiery of the army, the soldiery of the clergy, that is to say, the Curés and monks, the dissenters, and part of the nobility which is small, and the substantial Bourgeoise of the whole nation. The part of these collected in the cities, have formed themselves into municipal bodies, have chosen municipal representatives, and have organized an armed corps, considerably more numerous in the whole than the regular army. They have also the ministry, such as it is, and as yet, the King. Were the second and third parties, or rather these sections of the same party, to separate entirely, this great mass of power and wealth would be split, nobody knows how. But I do not think they will separate; because they have the same honest views; because, each being confident of the rectitude of the other, there is no rancor between them; because they retain the desire of coalescing. In order to effect this, they not long ago proposed a conference, and desired it might be at my house, which gave me an opportunity of judging of their views. They discussed together their points of difference for six hours, and in the course of discussion agreed on mutual sacrifices. The effect of this agreement has been considerably defeated by the subsequent proceedings of the Assembly, but I do not know that it has been through any infidelity of the leaders to the compromise they had agreed on. Another powerful bond of union between these two parties, is our friend the Marquis de La Fayette. He left the Assembly while they as yet formed but one party. His attachment to both is equal, and he labors incessantly to keep them together. Should he be obliged to take part against either, it will be against that which shall first pass the Rubicon of reconciliation with the other. I should hope, in this event, that his weight would be sufficient to turn the scale decidedly in favor of the other. His command of the armed militia of Paris (thirty thousand in number, and comprehending the French guards who are five thousand regulars), and his influence with the municipality, would secure their city; and though the armed militia and municipalities of the other cities are in nowise subordinate to those of Paris, yet they look up to them with respect, and look particularly to the Marquis de La Fayette, as leading always to the rights of the people. This turn of things is so probable, that I do not think either section of the patriots will venture on any act, which will place themselves in opposition to him.
This being the face of things, troubled as you will perceive, civil war is much talked of and expected; and this talk and expectation has a tendency to beget it. What are the events which may produce it ? 1. The want of bread, were it to produce a commencement of disorder, might ally itself to more permanent causes of discontent, and thus continue the effect beyond its first cause. The scarcity of bread, which continues very great amidst a plenty of corn, is an enigma which can be solved only by observing, that the furnishing the city is in the new municipality, not yet masters of their trade. 2. A public bankruptcy. Great numbers of the lower as well as higher classes of the citizens, depend for subsistence on their property in the public funds. 3. The absconding of the King from Versailles. This has for some time been apprehended as possible. In consequence of this apprehension, a person whose information would have weight, wrote to the Count de Montmorin, adjuring him to prevent it by every possible means, and assuring him that the flight of the King would be the signal of a St. Bartholomew against the aristocrats in Paris, and perhaps through the kingdom. M. de Montmorin showed the letter to the Queen, who assured him solemnly that no such thing was in contemplation. His showing it to the Queen, proves he entertained the same mistrust with the public. It may be asked, what is the Queen disposed to do in the present situation of things ? Whatever rage, pride and fear can dictate in a breast which never knew the presence of one moral restraint.
Upon the whole, I do not see it as yet probable that any actual commotion will take place; and if it does take place, I have strong confidence that the patriotic party will hold together, and their party in the nation be what I have described it. In this case, there would be against them the aristocracy and the faction of Orleans. This consists, at this time, of only the Catilines of the Assembly, and some of the lowest description of the mob. Its force, within the kingdom, must depend on how much of this last kind of people it can debauch with money from its present bias to the right cause. This bias is as strong as any one can be, in a class which must accept its bread from him who will give it. Its resources out of the kingdom are not known. Without doubt, England will give money to produce and to feed the fire which should consume this country; but it is not probable she will engage in open war for that. If foreign troops should be furnished, it would be most probably by the King of Prussia, who seems to offer himself as the bull-dog of tyranny to all his neighbors. He might, too, be disturbed by the contagion of the same principles gaining his own subjects, as they have done those of the Austrian Netherlands, Liege, Cologne, and Hesse Cassel. The army of the latter Prince, joining with his subjects, are said to have possessed themselves of the treasures he had amassed by hiring troops to conquer us, and by other iniquities. Fifty-four millions of livres is the sum mentioned. But all these means, external and internal, must prove inadequate to their ultimate object, if the nation be united as it is at present. Expecting within a few days to leave Paris, and that this is my last letter on public subjects, I have indulged myself in giving you a general view of things, as they appear to me at the time of my leaving them. Mr. Short will have the honor of continuing the narration, and of correcting it, where circumstances unknown or unforeseen may give a different turn to events.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
I had the honor of waiting on you at Versailles the day before yesterday, in order to present my respects on my departure to America. I was unlucky in the moment, as it was one in which you were gone out.
I wished to have put into your hands, at the same time, the enclosed state of the British northern fishery for the years 1788 and 1789, by which you will see that they have lost in one year one-third of that fishery, the effect, almost solely, of the Arret which shut the ports of France to their oils.
I wished also to know, whether, while in America, I could be useful towards encouraging supplies of provision to be brought to this country the ensuing year. I am persuaded a considerable relief to the city of Paris might be obtained, by permitting the importation of salted provisions from the United States. Our salted beef particularly (which, since the war, we have learned to prepare in the Irish manner, so as to be as good as the best of that country), could be sold out to the people of Paris for the half of what they pay for fresh meat. It would seem then, that the laborer paying but half the usual price for his meat, might pay the full price of his bread, and so relieve government from its loss on that article. The interest of the gabelles has been an objection, hitherto, to the importation of salted provisions. But that objection is lessened by the reduction of the price of salt, and done away entirely by the desire of the present government to consider the ease and happiness of the people as the first object. In every country as fully peopled as France, it would seem good policy to encourage the employment of its lands in the cultivation of corn, rather than in pasturage, and consequently to encourage the use of all kinds of salted provisions, because they can be imported from other countries. It may be apprehended, that the Parisian, habituated to fresh provision, would not use salted. Then he would not buy them, and of course they would not be brought, so that no harm can be done by the permission. On the contrary, if the people of Paris should readily adopt the use of salted provisions, the good would result which is before mentioned. Salt meat is not as good as fresh for soups, but it gives a higher flavor to the vegetables boiled with it. The experience of a great part of America, which is fed almost entirely on it, proves it to be as wholesome as fresh meat. The sea scurvy, ascribed by some to the use of salt meat, is equally unknown in America as in Europe. It is the want of vegetables at sea which produces the scurvy. I have thus hastily mentioned reasons and objections, to save you the time and trouble of recollecting them. To you, Sir, it suffices, barely to mention them. Mr. Short, Chargé des Affaires for the United States, will have the honor of delivering you this, and of giving you any further details which you may be pleased to require.
I shall hope, on my return in the spring, to find your health re-established, and your mind relieved, by a perfect settlement of the affairs of the nation; and with my felicitations on those accounts, to express to you those sentiments of profound respect and attachment with which I have the honor to be, your Excellencys most obedient, and most humble servant.
No convenient ship having offered from any port of France, I have engaged one from London to take me up at Cowes, and am so far on my way thither. She will land me at Norfolk, and as I do not know any service that would be rendered by my repairing immediately to New York, I propose, in order to economize time, to go directly to my own house, get through the business which calls me there, and then repair to New York, where I shall be ready to re-embark for Europe. But should there be any occasion for government to receive any information I can give, immediately on my arrival, I will go to New York on receiving your orders at Richmond. They may probably be there before me, as this goes by Mr. Trumbull, bound directly for New York.
I enclose you herewith the proceedings of the National Assembly on Saturday last, wherein you will perceive that the committee had approved the plan of Mr. Necker. I can add from other sure information received here, that the Assembly adopted it the same evening. This plan may possibly keep their payments alive till their new government gets into motion; though I do not think it very certain. The public stocks lowered so exceedingly the last days of my stay at Paris, that I wrote to our bankers at Amsterdam, to desire they would retain till further orders the thirty thousand guilders, or so much of it as had not yet come on. And as to what might be already coming on, I recommended to Mr. Short to go and take the acceptance himself, and keep the bill in his own hands till the time of payment. He will by that time see what is best to be done with the money.
In taking leave of Monsieur de Montmorin, I asked him whether their West India ports would continue open to us awhile. He said they would be immediately declared open till February, and we may be sure they will be so till the next harvest. He agreed with me, that there would be two or three months provision for the whole kingdom wanting for the ensuing year. The consumption of bread for the whole kingdom, is two millions of livres tournois a day. The people pay the real price of their bread everywhere, except at Paris and Versailles. There the price is suffered to vary very little as to them, and government pays the difference. It has been supposed that this difference for some time past, has cost a million a week. I thought the occasion favorable to propose to Monsieur de Montmorin the free admission of our salted provisions, observing to him particularly that our salted beef from the Eastern States could be dealt out to the people of Paris for five or six sols the pound, which is but half the common price they pay for fresh beef; that the Parisian paying less for his meat, might pay more for his bread, and so relieve government from its enormous loss on that article. His idea of this resource seemed unfavorable. We talked over the objections of the supposed unhealthiness of that food, its tendency to produce scurvy, the chance of its taking with a people habituated to fresh meat, their comparative qualities of rendering vegetables eatable, and the interests of the gabelles. He concluded with saying the experiment might be tried, and with desiring me to speak with Mr. Necker. I went to Mr. Necker, but he had gone to the National Assembly. On my return to Paris, therefore, I wrote to him on the subject, going over the objections which Monsieur de Montmorin had started. Mr. Short was to carry the letter himself, and to pursue the subject.
Having observed that our commerce to Havre is considerably on the increase, and that most of our vessels coming there, and especially those from the eastward, are obliged to make a voyage round to the neighborhood of the Loire and Garonne for salt, a voyage attended with expense, delay, and more risk, I have obtained from the Farmers General, that they shall be supplied from their magazines at Honfleur, opposite to Havre, at a mercantile price. They fix it at present at sixty livres the muid, which comes to about fifteen sous, or seven and a half pence sterling our bushel; but it will vary as the price varies at the place from which they bring it. As this will be a great relief to such of our vessels coming to Havre, as might wish to take back salt, it may perhaps be proper to notify it to our merchants. I enclose herewith Mr. Neckers discourse to the Assembly which was not printed till I left Paris, and have the honor to be, with sentiments of the most perfect esteem and respect, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.
I have received at this place the honor of your letters of October the 13th and November the 30th, and am truly flattered by your nomination of me to the very dignified office of Secretary of State; for which, permit me here to return you my humble thanks. Could any circumstance seduce me to overlook the disproportion between its duties and my talents, it would be the encouragement of your choice. But when I contemplate the extent of that office, embracing as it does the principal mass of domestic administration, together with the foreign, I cannot be insensible of my inequality to it ; and I should enter on it with gloomy forebodings from the criticisms and censures of a public, just indeed in their intentions, but sometimes misinformed and misled, and always too respectable to be neglected. I cannot but foresee the possibility that this may end disagreeably for me, who, having no motive to public service but the public satisfaction, would certainly retire the moment that satisfaction should appear to languish. On the other hand, I feel a degree of familiarity with the duties of my present office, as far at least as I am capable of understanding its duties. The ground I have already passed over, enables me to see my way into that which is before me. The change of government too, taking place in a country where it is exercised, seems to open a possibility of procuring from the new rulers, some new advantages in commerce, which may be agreeable to our countrymen. So that as far as my fears, my hopes, or my inclinations might enter into this question, I confess they would not lead me to prefer a change.
But it is not for an individual to choose his post. You are to marshal us as may best be for the public good ; and it is only in the case of its being indifferent to you, that I would avail myself of the option you have so kindly offered in your letter. If you think it better to transfer me to another post, my inclination must be no obstacle; nor shall it be, if there is any desire to suppress the office I now hold, or to reduce its grade. In either of these cases, be so good only as to signify to me by another line your ultimate wish, and I shall conform to it cordially. If it should be to remain at New York, my chief comfort will be to work under your eye, my only shelter the authority of your name, and the wisdom of measures to be dictated by you and implicitly executed by me. Whatever you may be pleased to decide, I do not see that the matters which have called me hither, will permit me to shorten the stay I originally asked; that is to say, to set out on my journey northward till the month of March. As early as possible in that month, I shall have the honor of paying my respects to you in New York. In the meantime, I have that of tendering you the homage of those sentiments of respectful attachment with which I am, Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.