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My Dear Sir,
At this late hour, and from this remote corner, J am to ac knowledge your favors of the 19th and 25th of June. I did not reply from Paris, because I wished for a safe conveyance ; and although none offers itself at present, yet I will write what occurs for communication, and take a future chance for transmission.
The assurances of friendly esteem, which your letters convey, are very pleasing ; but, indeed, I never doubted of the sentiments you express, and even go so far as to natter myself, that the measure in question was not agreeable to you. It was highly so to me, and although I am persuaded that you will believe me, on my word, I will nevertheless assign some reasons why a change of situation was desirable.
And first, you will see from what is publicly known respecting those, who administered the French despotism, how painful it must have been to represent our virtuous Republic to such persons. I had stayed, at some risk, after the 10th of August, because I thought the interests of America required it, and I did not ask my recall at a subsequent period, because it would not have been honorable to abandon a post which, if no longer unsafe, was at least very unpleasant. I felt that I was useless, and indeed that nobody could be useful, until some permanent system should be established. I saw misery and affliction every day, and all around me, without power to mitigate, or means to relieve ; and I felt myself degraded by the communications I was forced into with the worst of man kind, in order to obtain redress for the injuries sustained by my fellow citizens.
During that state of things, I was grossly insulted by the arrest of a lady in my house, by order of the Committee of General Safety. I could not resent this, as I ought to have done, by quitting the country, because a great number of our citizens were then detained in France, with much of their property, and I knew the violence which those who administered the government were capable of. Moreover, I saw with regret, that the temper of America was not such as her best citizens could have wished ; and the conduct of Britain, rendered a temporizing conduct with France indispensable. My representations obtained a half apology and promise of satisfaction, but occasioned the order to solicit my recall ; of which I was apprised within four and twenty hours after it was given, and might easily have shown whence it originated ; but, to tell you the truth, I was inclined to wish that I might be removed on their application. I really believe it was necessary to my reputation. So long as they believed in the success of their demand, they treated my representations with indifference and contempt ; but at last, hearing nothing from their Minister on that subject, or indeed on any other, they took it into their heads that I was immovable, and made overtures of conciliation.
At this time I began to apprehend, that we should be plunged into a war with England, in which case it would have be come my duty to aid the French as far as my abilities might go; but as I knew their temper, I replied to the advances made, that I was not to be affected by smooth words, so that they must begin by complying with the various demands I had made, and show me by facts that they were well disposed. Shortly after this, I received a volunteer letter from the Commissary of Exterior Relations, (a poor creature, who scarce dared to do anything without an order from the Committee of Safety), assuring me that he had transmitted my various representations to the Commissary of the Marine, and expected soon to give me satisfactory answers. It was written ten days before the death of Robespierre, shortly after which, Mr Monroe arrived. He was fortunate in not reaching France at an earlier period ; for, if I may judge by what fell within my observation, he would have been a little too well with that party, to be viewed in a neutral light by their opponents. I hope he may succeed in obtaining the redress of those grievances, which our countrymen labored under ; but on the 12th of October, when I left Paris, nothing was done. I build my present hopes, however, on Mr Jay's treaty, for they will now be somewhat more cautious respecting us than they have been.
In reply to what you say about my return to America, I must tell you, that I could not depart in such season as that my communications could be of much importance, and there fore as I must have exposed myself to the inconveniences of a winter's passage, I deferred my voyage ; and the rather, as I have some affairs in London which I wish to wind up. I should have gone thither for that purpose direct, but the French would have harbored jealousies respecting my journey, which for many reasons I wished not to excite, and therefore I came round through Switzerland to this city, in which I am now weather bound. So much for my history.
As to the state of political affairs, the Polish insurrection is, as you know, completely subdued, and of course the attention of Europe is all turned to France, which has lately triumphed in every quarter by the extreme misconduct of her enemies. It seems at present that they are coming to their senses, and if I am rightly informed, they have at length abandoned the idea of a dismemberment, and mean to pursue simply the re-establishment of the throne. If they act wisely and vigorously in that direction, it seems to to me that they must succeed, for the French are wearied and exhausted by the contest. They detest and despise their present rulers, and as far as I have been able to judge, they ardently desire the restoration of their Prince.
You will ask, perhaps, why then do they not restore him ? It is because they dare not act, nor even speak, so that they do not know each other's opinions, and of course each individual apprehends from the general mass ; but everything which has taken place leaves them to look back with regret to their ancient situation. In judging the French, we must not recur to the feelings of America during the last war. We were in the actual enjoyment of freedom, and fought not to obtain, but to secure its blessings. The people elected their magistrates during the continuance of the war. The property of the country was engaged in the Revolution, and the oppressions which it occasioned were neither great, extensive, nor of long duration.
But in France they have been lured by one idle hope after another, until they are plunged in the depth of misery and servitude ; servitude so much the more degrading, as they cannot but despise their masters. I have long, you know, predicted a single despotism, and you have seen how near they have been to that catastrophe. Chance, or rather the want of mettle in the usurper, has alone saved them to the present moment ; but I am still convinced, that they must end their voyage in that port, and they would probably reach it, should they make peace with all their foreign enemies, through the channels of a civil war. Adieu, my dear Sir. I wish you many and happy years, and am very truly yours,
- Gouverneur Morris
- The Life of Gouverneur Morris With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers Vol. II., Jared Sparks, 1832