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shocked at the atrocities which disgraced it, and at the dangers to be apprehended from an unrestrained populace. A letter which he received from Gouverneur Morris (dated October 23d), placed the condition of the unfortunate Louis XVI., the ancient friend and ally of America, in a light to awaken his benevolent sympathy.
You will have seen," writes Morris, "that the king is accused of high crimes and misdemeanors; but I verily believe that he wished sincerely for this nation, the enjoyment of the utmost degree of liberty, which their situation and circumstances will permit. He wished for a good constitution, but, unfortunately, he had not the means to obtain it, or, if he had, he was thwarted by those about him. What may be his fate God only knows, but history informs us that the passage of dethroned monarchs is short from the prison to the grave."
Nothing, however, in all the eventful tidings from France, gave Washington greater concern than the catastrophe of his friend Lafayette. His first thoughts prompted the consolation and assistance of the marchioness. In a letter to her, he writes: "If I had words that could convey to you an adequate idea of my feelings on the present situation of the Marquis Lafayette, this letter would appear to you in a different garb. The sole object in writing to you now, is to inform you that I have deposited in the hands of Mr. Nicholas Van Staphorst of Amsterdam, two thousand three hundred and ten guilders, Holland currency, equal to two hundred guineas, subject to your orders.
"This sum is, I am certain, the least I am indebted for services rendered me by the Marquis de Lafay
ette, of which I never yet have received the account. I could add much, but it is best, perhaps, that I should say little on this subject. Your goodness will supply my deficiency.
MADAME DE LAFAYETTE.
"The uncertainty of your situation, after all the inquiries I have made, has occasioned a delay in this address and remittance; and even now the measure adopted is more the effect of a desire to find where you are, than from any knowledge I have obtained of your residence."
Madame de Lafayette, in fact, was at that time a prisoner in France, in painful ignorance of her husband's fate. She had been commanded by the Jacobin committee to repair to Paris about the time of the massacres, but was subsequently permitted to reside at Chavaniac, under the surveillance of the municipality.
We will anticipate events by adding here, that some time afterwards, finding her husband was a prisoner in Austria, she obtained permission to leave France, and ultimately, with her two daughters, joined him in his prison at Olmutz. George Washington Lafayette, the son of the General, determined to seek an asylum in America.
In the mean time, the arms of revolutionary France were crowned with great success. Towns fall before them without a blow," writes Gouverneur Morris, "and the declaration of rights produces an effect equal at least to the trumpets of Joshua." But Morris was far from drawing a favorable augury from this success. "We must observe the civil, moral, religious, and political institutions," said he. "These have a steady and lasting effect, and these only. *** Since I have been
in this country, I have seen the worship of many idols, and but little of the true God. I have seen many of those idols broken, and some of them beaten to dust. I have seen the late constitution, in one short year, admired as a stupendous monument of human wisdom, and ridiculed as an egregious production of folly and vice. I wish much, very much, the happiness of this inconstant people. I love them. I feel grateful for their efforts in our cause, and I consider the establishment of a good constitution here as the principal means, under Divine Providence, of extending the blessings of freedom to the many millions of my fellow-men, who groan in bondage on the continent of Europe. But I do not greatly indulge the flattering illusions of hope, because I do not yet perceive that reformation of morals, without which, liberty is but an empty sound." *
* Life of Morris, ii. 248.
WASHINGTON'S ENTRANCE UPON HIS SECOND TERM-GLOOMY AUSPICES— EXECUTION OF LOUIS XVI.-FRANCE DECLARES WAR AGAINST ENGLAND-BELLIGERENT EXCITEMENT IN AMERICA-PROCLAMATION OF NEUTRALITY—FRENCH MISSION TO THE UNITED STATES-GENET ARRIVES IN CHARLESTON-HIS RECEPTION IN PHILADELPHIA-VIEWS OF JEFFERSON AND HAMILTON-WASHINGTON'S DISPASSIONATE OPINION.
It was under gloomy auspices, a divided cabinet, an increasing exasperation of parties, a suspicion of monarchical tendencies, and a threatened abatement of popularity, that Washington entered upon his second term of presidency. It was a portentous period in the history of the world, for in a little while came news of that tragical event, the beheading of Louis XVI. It was an event deplored by many of the truest advocates of liberty in America, who, like Washington, remembered that unfortunate monarch as the friend of their country in her revolutionary struggle; but others, zealots in the cause of political reform, considered it with complacency, as sealing the downfall of the French monarchy and the establishment of a republic.
An event followed hard upon it to shake the quiet of the world. Early in April intelligence was received that France had declared war against England. Popular excitement was now wound up to the highest pitch.
What, it was asked, were Americans to do in such a juncture? Could they remain unconcerned spectators of a conflict between their ancient enemy and republican France? Should they fold their arms and look coldly on a war, begun, it is true, by France, but threatening the subversion of the republic, and the reestablishment of a monarchical government?
Many, in the wild enthusiasm of the moment, would at once have precipitated the country into a war. Fortunately this belligerent impulse was not general, and was checked by the calm, controlling wisdom of Washington. He was at Mount Vernon when he received news of the war, and understood that American vessels were already designated, and some even fitting out to serve in it as privateers. He forthwith despatched a letter to Jefferson on the subject. "War having actually commenced between France and Great Britain," writes he, "it behooves the government of this country to use every means in its power to prevent the citizens thereof from embroiling us with either of those powers, by endeavoring to maintain a strict neutrality."
Hastening back to Philadelphia, he held a cabinet council on the 19th of April, to deliberate on the measures proper to be observed by the United States in the present crisis; and to determine upon a general plan of conduct for the Executive.
In this council it was unanimously determined that a proclamation should be issued by the President, "forbidding the citizens of the United States to take part in any hostilities on the seas, and warning them against carrying to the belligerents any articles deemed contraband according to the modern usages of nations, and