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My Dear Sir,
I wrote to you on the twenty- fourth of October, and have not since received any of your letters. In that I acknowledged yours of the 22d of June. You will have seen from the public prints the wonderful success of the French arms, arising from the following causes. 1. That the enemy, deceived by the emigrants, counted too lightly on the opposition he was to meet with. 2. That from like misinformation, instead of attacking on the northern frontier, backed by the resources of Flanders, and those which the ocean would supply, they came across the Ardennes to that part of Champaign, nicknamed the lousy, from its barrenness and misery. 3. That in this expedition, where the difficulty of the roads, transportation and communication was the greatest they expected, it so happened that the season, usually dry and fair, (when those bad roads are at the best) was one continued rain for two months, so that at length they were nearly stuck fast, and had as much as they could do to drag back their cannon, &c. through the mud. Lastly, that France brought into the field, and has kept up until very lately, the immense number of six hundred thousand troops. This has been done at an average expense of about five millions sterling per month beyond their resources, and yet they have ordered a like army for the next campaign, and talk boldly of meeting Great Britain also upon her element. What say you to that, Monsieur le Financier? But I will tell you in your ear, that in spite of that blustering, they will do much to avoid a war with Great Britain, if the people will let them, but the truth is, that the populace of Paris influence in a great degree the public councils. I think they will have quite as many men as they can maintain ; but what that may amount to is hard to determine.
The ministers here are most extraordinary people. They make nothing of difficulties, as you shall judge by a single trait of M. Pache, the minister at War. He had sent Beurnonville to occupy the Moselle river down to Coblentz, taking Treves and other places in his way. Now this way lies through a very difficult mountainous country, in which the snow is very deep, therefore Beurnonville, having got a little neck of land between the Saar and the Moselle, puts his troops into winter quarters, pleading their nakedness as an excuse. The minister has sent him a brace of commissioners, who have power to impress in the neighborhood whatever may be needful for the troops, and then (their wants supplied) summon him to obey his orders. T have given to Mr Jefferson a pretty full account of the state of things, so that if you see that account, which I take it is of course, you may measure by the standard now given you all other affairs.
If I may venture to judge from appearances, there is now in the wind a storm not unlike that of the second of September, Whether it will burst or blow over, it is impossible to determine.
It has occurred to me, that I never yet assigned a reason why the completion of payment of six million livres, which at Mr Short's request I had stipulated for with the government lately abolished, appeared to me desirable. In effect, I left this as I do many other things to the sense of the gentle reader, but as readers are sometimes ungentle, it is not amiss to communicate that reason to a friend. I saw that the new government would be hungry, and would urge us for money in the double view of obtaining an acknowledgment of them, as well as of supplying their wants. It was therefore, I thought, right to take a position where we might say there is nothing due. This would leave open a question, which it would be very delicate to answer either way, as things appeared then, and as they are now that appearances have changed. You will have seen the manoeuvres to force me in that intrenchment ; but at last, like your friend General Lee, I was quite at the worst for a retrograde manoeuvre.
But I concluded that supplies of money to support the colony of St Domingo would, in all events, have been considered as a good and effectual payment on our part, and, had my offer of recommending such supplies been accepted, I would on that ground have proposed the measure, which, anticipating the next instalments, would have still kept open the main point as long as you should think proper. And thus my apparent retreat was in effect a mode of more permanent defence, and this is more, I believe, than poor Lee could say for himself. I am truly yours, &ic.
- Gouverneur Morris
- The Life of Gouverneur Morris With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers Vol. II., Jared Sparks, 1832