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My last was of the first instant. Since that period another revolution has been effected in this city. It was bloody. Success, which always makes friends, gives to the present order an air of greater unanimity than really exists. A very considerable party is deeply interested to overturn it, but what may be their conduct is uncertain. Whether they will con fine themselves to idle vows and empty wishes, or whether they will break out into action, is doubtful. Some of them are men of enterprise, but it is rather .small than great enterprise.
As you know well this kingdom, it may perhaps be sufficient to mention the kind of persons who compose this party. They are those who called themselves the moderate, or middle men, and who hoped to balance the two extremes, and govern the kingdom by playing off one set against the other. This, in quiet times, requires great talents, as well as great address, and they had more of the latter than the former. In times of turbulence it is necessary, that those who play this game should have a considerable armed force, because neither argument, nor persuasion, can then avail. It remains to be proved by the fact, whether they possess such force. If they do, it must be in the hands of M. de Lafayette ; and as all must depend on an immediate exercise of it, I rather think that the precious moment will be suffered to pass away. I have long been convinced that this middle party, who by the bye were the prime movers of the revolution, must fall to the ground, and that those who compose it must join one of the great factions.
The Aristocratic faction is split into two or more. Some are for absolute monarchy, some for the ancient regime, some, and those but few, desire a mixed government. The framers of the late constitution had got up to this last ground, but the idea of a hereditary Senate stuck in their throats. The King. who has an uncommon firmness in suffering, but who has not the talents for action, and who is besides a very religious man,, found himself fettered by his oaths to the constitution, which he in his conscience believed to be a bad one ; and about which indeed there is now but one opinion in this country , because experience, that great parent of wisdom, has brought it already to trial and condemnation. The King, from the causes just mentioned, would not step forward, and of course there was no standard to which the adherents of the two chambers could repair.
The republicans had the good sense to march boldly and openly to their object, and as they took care not to mince matters, nor embarrass themselves by legal or constitutional niceties, they had the advantage of union, concert, and design, against the disjointed members of a body without a head. If, under these circumstances, the foreign force were out of question, I should have no doubt that the republican form would take place quietly enough, and continue as long as the morals of the country would permit. You know the state of morals here, and can of course, if it be necessary, form the calculation for yourself. The circumstance of foreign force is however, on the present occasion, a preponderant object, and I think its effect will depend upon its activity. Should the Duke of Brunswick advance rapidly, he will be joined by great numbers, even of the armies opposed to him ; because the late change will furnish to some a reason, and to others a pretext, for abandoning the cause they had espoused. If, on the contrary, his progress be cautious and slow, it is probable that those who are now silent from fear, will habituate themselves by degrees to speak favorably of the present government, in order to lull suspicion : and that thus a public opinion will appear, which, when once pronounced, governs the generality of mankind. If by this means the new republic takes a little root, foreign powers will, I believe, find it a difficult matter to shake it to the ground, for the French nation is an immense mass, which it is not easy either to move or to oppose. You will observe, Sir, that matters are now brought to a simple question, between an absolute monarchy and a republic ; for all middle terms are done away. This question also must be decided by force, because on one side it is in the hands of the people, who cannot treat for themselves, and who will not permit others to treat for them in respect to the important interests which are now at stake. If, as in former times, some factious nobles were at the head of a party, they would, as formerly, take the first opportunity to stipulate for themselves at the expense of their party ; but without entering here into a question of relative integrity, I do not think the people are so attached to any particular men, as to have what may be called leaders ; and those who appear as such are in my opinion rather instruments than agents.
I do not go into the history of things, nor trouble you with a recapitulation of events. I enclose, and shall send by the pre sent opportunity, the gazettes since my last, which will communicate all particulars, which you may desire to know. Since the operations of the tenth, the Logographe, Gazette Universelle, and Indicateur, are suppressed, as indeed were all those which were guilty of Feuillantisme, that is, adherence to the Club des Feuillants soi-disant Constitutionel. You must there fore make allowances for what you find in the other Gazettes, written not only in the spirit of a party, but under the eye of a party. The first must influence the most honest printer in the coloring of some facts, and the second will restrain the boldest printer in the publishing of other facts. If it were necessary, or could be useful, I should communicate all the particulars which come to my knowledge ; but this invidious task would answer no good end, and long before my letters could reach you, changes must inevitably take place.
One particular however it is becoming to note. You will find that the Assembly immediately superseded the appointment of a Monsieur Bonne-Carrere, as minister to the United States. This man's character is as bad as need be, and stained by infamous vices. By what influence he was introduced into the office of Foreign Affairs I know not, for I was then in England ; but I have reason to believe it was the poor expedient of the Feuillants to watch, and check, and perhaps to be tray the Jacobin ministry. While the King was pressing M. Sainte-Croix (an eight day minister) to accept the department of Foreign Affairs, this last declared that he would not serve if Bonne-Carrere was retained ; and to get rid of him they in vented the expedient of sending him to America. I considered this step as a kind of insult, and transmitted my sentiments on the subject to the King, who thereupon told M. SainteCroix that I was angry at that appointment, and he must ar range the matter with me ; that he wished I would prevent his being received.
The minister apologised for himself by saying the nomination had taken place before he came into office, and that he had remonstrated against it. He apologised for the thing as well as he could, admitting always that it was wrong ; and added that his embarkation should be delayed, and I was at liberty to prevent his being received. To this I replied, that he must not embark at all, but be removed ; and that would have been done, for when hs presented the Bon for his appointments, the minister refused to sign it. In the mean time the new revolution took place, and the history of M. Bonne-Carrere's ministry is at an end. It may perhaps be misrepresented, and therefore having stated the facts, I think it right to add that it proceeded from downright weakness. He was supposed to possess the confidence of a great many of the nobility, and therefore they were afraid to turn him about his business. Perhaps also he had been trusted so far that he knew too much. This was the case with some others, not better than him as to essentials, though not so much abased.
I shall send herewith a packet, containing my correspondence with the Commissioners of the Treasury, relative to our debt, and in the same packet you will find a letter from Mr Cathalan to you relative to a riot at Marseilles, and his conduct therein. He has written two long letters to me on that subject, and I have replied by one of the thirteenth instant, which you will also find enclosed with his letter to you.
I have already had occasion to mention to you, Sir, that I did not find myself authorised to go into the settlement of the account finally with the Commissioners of the Treasury. This observation I must again in this place repeat, and add that not withstanding my utmost efforts, I have not been able to bring the minister of Foreign Affairs to consider for a moment the question referred to me, respecting the sums paid and paying in America. What is still more surprising is, that the minister of the Marine, although authorised to treat with me for supplies to the colony of St Domingo, has done nothing in that affair. Two ministers have occupied that place since the decree. Each has given me various rendezvous, but neither has appeared at the time and place, because circumstances of the moment have obliged them to attend to something else. Indeed the executive of the late constitution has been at the last agony for these three months, and of course has thought more of saving its life than of doing its business. The present executive is just born, and may perhaps be stifled in the cradle.
If a general arrangement could have been made with the late government, for paying the whole of the debt at some fixed exchange, so as to do justice, and fulfil the honorable intentions of the United States, I should have been well pleased, and although not exactly authorised should probably have taken on me to make the needful engagements ; and in so doing I should have made a great sacrifice to the public, because I wish of all things to be free from any pecuniary transactions, for I know by experience, that the utmost possible purity will not prevent malicious insinuations, which however unfounded will always find some believers.
It appears, however, a probable event, that before our debt is paid, we may experience some considerable losses on ex change, not to mention the dead charges which are considerable too. It has therefore appeared to me most advisable to make one general statement and settlement of the whole ; and if it shall appear that we have gained, and that they have lo" by the modes of payment, then to give a good round sum as a compensation, and as it were gratuitously, because by that means we have the reputation of the good we do, and the sacrifice we make ; and because otherwise the agents of this government might attribute to their address an advantage gained, instead of giving credit to our generosity for a compensation granted. And it seems important to establish the latter idea, because it cannot fail to extend our credit throughout the world, and consequently to facilitate all pecuniary operations, which hereafter we may have occasion to make.
Before I conclude this letter, permit me, my dear Sir, to request the orders of the President respecting my line of con duct in the circumstances about to arise. Perhaps these orders may not reach me, until the circumstances are past, but even then they may serve as a ground to reason on, in the circumstances which succeed. If they arrive in season, they will relieve my mind from a great weight. At present I feel my self in a state of contingent responsibility of the most delicate kind. I am far from wishing to avoid any fair and reasonable risk, and I rely on the justice of government, at the same time, to mark out as exactly as possible the conduct to be pur sued, as well as on its goodness to judge favorably of causes unforeseen. I am, &c.
- The Life of Gouverneur Morris With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers Vol. II., Jared Sparks, 1832