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Mr Short has delivered to me within these few days your favor of the twenty-eighth of July. I cannot express to you what I felt on reading it. The view which it gives of our prosperity as a nation swelled my bosom with emotions, which none can know but those who have experienced them. The wonderful change, which has been effected in our affairs by the operation of the general government, has exceeded the pre dictions of its warmest friends. How great a source of joy is this to those, who have been at all instrumental in its formation and establishment ; those especially to whom Providence in its bounty has imparted a sincere affection for their fellow men. Yes, my dear Sir, man is not merely a selfish, nor a material being, and I attest your heart to witness the truth from the conviction of its own feelings.
The King has at length, as you will have seen, accepted the new constitution, and been in consequence liberated from his arrest. It is a general and almost universal conviction that this constitution is inexecutable. The makers to a man condemn it. Judge what must be the opinion of others. Mr Short will doubtless forward all the public documents respecting it, and therefore 1 shall not trouble you with any of them. His majesty is to go in about an hour hence to close the session of the National Assembly, and then they leave the field to their successors. His present business is to make himself popular ; indeed his life and crown depend upon it ; for the constitution is such, that he must soon be more or less than he is at present, and fortunately he begins to think so, but unfortunately his advisers have neither the sense nor the spirit, which the occasion calls for.
The new Assembly, as far as can at present be determined, is deeply imbued with republican or rather democratical principles. The southern part of this kingdom is in the same disposition. The northern is ecclesiastical in its temper. The eastern is attached to Germany, and would gladly be reunited to the empire. Normandy is aristocratical. and so is part of Britany. The interior part of the kingdom is monarchical. This map is (you may rely on it) just, for it is the result of great and expensive investigations made by government, and I think you will be able by the help of it, and of the few observations which precede it, fully to understand many things, which would not otherwise perhaps be so easily unriddled. You doubtless recollect that the now expiring Assembly was convened to ar range the finances, and you will perhaps be surprised to learn, that after consuming church property to the amount of one hundred millions sterling, they leave this department much worse than they found it. Such however is the fact, and the chance now is, in my opinion, rather for than against a bankruptcy.
The aristocrats, who are gone and going in great numbers to join the refugee princes, believe sincerely in a coalition- of the powers of Europe to reinstate their sovereign in his ancient authorities ; but I believe they are very much mistaken. Nothing of consequence can be attempted this year, and many things may happen before the month of June next, were the several potentates in earnest. I am led to imagine, that their views are very different from those which are now assigned to them, and it is very far from impossible that the attempt, if any, will, so far as France is concerned, be confined to a dismemberment. The weak side of this kingdom, as matters now stand, is Flanders ; but were the provinces of Alsace, Lorraine, French Flanders, and Artois rent away, the capital would be constantly ex posed to the visits from an enemy. These provinces were, you know, acquired at an immense expense of blood and treasure, and if Louis the Fourteenth could have succeeded in making the Rhine his boundary, from Switzerland to the ocean, he would have obtained the advantages almost of an insular position. Indeed it is difficult to abstain from the wish, that the countries included within that boundary were united under a free efficient government, since it would, in all human probability, be the means of dispensing the blessings of freedom in no distant period to all Europe. But on this subject it is now permitted to a rational being to form rather wishes than hopes, much less expectations.
I will enclose herein a note just now received of the latest intelligence from Coblentz. It is written by the Prince de Conde to his confidential friend here, and is accompanied by the request that all French gentlemen, capable of actual service, will immediately repair to the standard of royalty beyond the Rhine, or rather on the banks of that river. To the troops mentioned in this note are added by the counter revolutionists here 15,000 Hessians and 16,000 French refugees, so that exclusively of what the Emperor may bring forward, they muster an army, on paper, of 100,000 men. The Emperor has about 5,000 men in the low countries. But all these appearances, and the proposed Congress of Ambassadors at Aix la Chapelle, do not in the least change my opinion, that nothing serious will be attempted this year.
M. de Montmorin has resigned, and the Count de Moustier is named as his successor, but whether he will accept seems to be very doubtful. He is now at Berlin, and as he is an intimate of M. de Calonne, who is one mainspring of the counter revolution, he is, I presume, in the secret of what may be really in agitation. This on one side ; and on the other an office, the power and authority of which are just nothing at all; for you will observe, that by the new constitution every treaty and convention whatever must be submitted to the investigation of the Assembly to be by them accepted or rejected.
You will have seen I suppose, ere this arrives, what has been done here respecting the colonies. It is supposed that, they will be perfectly satisfied, because their internal legislation is left to themselves ; but I much doubt this, for their commerce, which involves their existence, is left entirely at the mercy of the Assembly, which will not be over attentive to their interests, when they fall into competition with those of the mother country.
I send out to Mr Morris a bundle of pamphlets written here by a M. de Cormere, according to hints and observations which I furnished to him. Mr Morris will give you one, and you will see that it was calculated to produce a liberal system of colonial government, beneficial to them and to us. In order to bring it about, it was proposed that commissioners should be sent out with full powers to treat with the colonial Assemblies, and could that have been carried, this pamphlet would have been the groundwork of the instructions. The proposition was rejected, but as it is more than probable, that the colonies will have had a full taste of the sweets of free trade before the troubles are composed, and as they will have learnt that fear can produce what reason could not, I do expect that at length this government must come into some such measure, and there by not only the stumbling block will be taken out of the way to a useful treaty between France and the United States, but at the same time, and by the same means, the road will be laid open for solid connexion with Great Britain.
In all cases we have the consolation, that if the powers of Europe by their excluding principles deprive us of the needful vent for our produce, which becomes daily more and more abundant, we shall, from the cheapness of living and of raw materials, which results from that circumstance, make great and rapid progress in useful manufactures. This alone is wanting to complete our independence. We shall then be, as it were, a world by ourselves, and far from the jars and wars of Europe, their various revolutions will serve merely to instruct and amuse ; like the roaring of a tempestuous sea, which at a certain distance becomes a pleasing sound.
Farewell, my dear Sir ; that you may be well and happy is the sincere wish of yours, &tc.
- Gouverneur Morris
- The Life of Gouverneur Morris With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers Vol. II., Jared Sparks, 1832