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Our very good friend, the Marquis De Lafayette, has intrusted to my care the key of the Bastille, and ti drawing handsomely framed, representing the demolition of that detestable prison, as a present to your Excellency, of which his letter will more particularly inform. I feel myself happy in being the person through whom the Marquis has conveyed this early trophy of the spoils of despotism, and the first ripe fruits of American principles transplanted into Europe, to his master and patron. When he mentioned to me the present he intended you, my heart leaped with joy. It is something so truly in character, that no remarks can illustrate it, and is more happily expressive of his remembrance of his American friends, than any letters can convey. That the principles of America opened the Bastille is not to be doubted; and therefore the key comes to the right place.
I beg leave to suggest to your Excellency the propriety of congratulating the King and Queen of France (for they have been our friends) and the National Assembly, on the happy example they are giving to Europe. You will see, by the King's speech, which I inclose, that he prides himself on being at the head of the revolution ; and I am certain that such a congratulation will be well received, and have a good effect.
I should rejoice to be the direct bearer of the Marquis's presents to your Excellency, but I doubt I shall not be able to see my much-loved America till next spring. I shall therefore send it by some American vessel to New York. I have permitted no drawing to he taken here, though it has been often requested, as I think there is a propriety that it should first be presented. But Mr. West wishes Mr. Trumbull to make a painting of the presentation of the key to you.
I returned from France to London, about five weeks ago ; and I am engaged to return to Paris, when the Constitution shall be proclaimed, and to carry the American flag in the procession. I have not the least doubt of the final and complete success of the French Revolution. Little ebbings and flowings, for and against, the natural companions of revolutions, sometimes appear, but the full current of it is, in my opinion, as fixed as the Gulf Stream.
I have manufactured a bridge (a single arch), of one hundred and ten feet span, and five feet high from the chord of the arch. It is now on board a vessel, coming from Yorkshire to London, where it is to be erected. I see nothing yet to disappoint my hopes of its being advantageous to me. It is this only which keeps me in Europe ; and happy shall I be, when I shall have it in my power to return to America. I have not heard of Mr. Jefferson since he sailed, except of his arrival. As I have always indulged the belief of having many friends in America, or rather no enemies, I have nothing else particularly to mention, but my affectionate remembrances to all ; and am. Sir, with the greatest respect.
Your most obliged and obedient, humble servant,
P. S. If any of my friends are disposed to favor me with a letter, it will come to hand by addressing it to the care of Benjamin Vaughan, Esquire, Jeffries Square, London.
- Thomas Paine
- Correspondence of the American Revolution; Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Volume IV., Jared Sparks, 1853