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on private business, gives a different view of the state of things produced by the Patriot party. Morris had arrived in Paris on the 3d of February, 1789, furnished by Washington with letters of introduction to persons in England, France, and Holland. His brilliant talents, ready conversational powers, easy confidence in society, and striking aristocratical appearance, had given him great currency, especially in the court party and among the ancient nobility; in which direction his tastes most inclined. He had renewed his intimacy with Lafayette, whom he found “full of politics,” but “too republican for the genius of his country.”
In a letter to the French Minister, residing in New York, Morris writes on the 23d of February, 1789: “Your nation is now in a most important crisis, and the great question--shall we hereafter have a constitution, or shall will continue to be law-employs every mind and agitates every heart in France. Even voluptuousness itself rises from its couch of roses and looks anxiously abroad at the busy scene to which nothing can now be indifferent.
“Your nobles, your clergy, your people, are all in motion for the elections. A spirit which has been dormant for generations starts up and stares about, ignorant of the means of obtaining, but ardently desirous to possess its object-consequently active, energetic, easily led, but also easily, too easily, misled. Such is the instinctive love of freedom which now grows warm in the bosom of your country.”
” When the king was constrained by the popular voice to convene the States General at Versailles for the
purpose of discussing measures of reform, Jefferson. was a constant attendant upon the debates of that body. “I was much acquainted with the leading patriots of the Assembly," writes he, “ being from a country which had successfully passed through similar reform; they were disposed to my acquaintance and had some confidence in me.
I urged most strenuously an immediate compromise to secure what the government was now ready to yield, and trust to future occasions for what might still be wanting."
The “leading patriots" here spoken of, were chiefly the deputies from Brittany, who, with others, formed an association called the Breton Club, to watch the matters debated in Parliament and shape the course of affairs.
Morris, speaking of Jefferson at this juncture, observes, “ He and I differ in our system of politics. He, with all the leaders of liberty here, is desirous of annihilating distinctions of order. How far such views may be right, respecting mankind in general, is, I think, extremely problematical. But, with respect to this nation, I am sure it is wrong and cannot eventuate well." *
Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Paine (July 11), giving some account of the proceedings of the States General, observes, “The National Assembly (for that is the name they take) having shown, through every stage of these transactions, a coolness, wisdom, and resolution to set fire to the four corners of the kingdom, and to perish with it themselves rather than to relinquish an iota from their plan of a total change of government, are now in complete and undisputed possession of the
* Life of G. Morris, i. 313.
1789.] JEFFERSON'S VIEWS OF THE FRENCH CRISIS.
Sovereignty. The executive and aristocracy are at their feet; the mass of the nation, the mass of the clergy, and the army are with them; they have prostrated the old government and are now beginning to build one from the foundation."
It was but three days after the date of this letter that the people of Paris rose in their might, plundered the arsenal of the Invalides, furnished themselves with arms, stormed the Bastille ; and a national guard, formed of the Bourgeoisie, with the tri-colored cockade for an emblem and Lafayette as commander, took Paris under its protection.
Information of these events was given at midnight to the king at Versailles by Rochefoucauld-Liancourt. “ It is a revolt," exclaimed the king. “Sire,” replied Liancourt, “it is a revolution!”
Jefferson, in his dispatches to government, spoke with admiration of the conduct of the people throughout the violent scenes which accompanied this popular convulsion. “There was a severity of honesty observed, of which no example has been known. Bags of money, , offered on various occasions through fear or guilt, have been uniformly refused by the mobs. The churches are now occupied in singing 'De Profundis' and * Requiems' for the repose of the souls of the brave and valiant citizens who have sealed, with their blood, the liberty of the nation. pose this paroxysm confined to Paris alone; the whole country must pass successively through it, and happy if they get through as soon and as well as Paris has
We cannot sup
* Letter to John Jay. Jefferson's works, iii. 80.
Gouverneur Morris, writing on the same subject to Washington, on the 31st of July, observes: “You may consider the revolution as complete. The authority of the king and of the nobility is completely subdued ; yet I tremble for the constitution. They have all the romantic spirit and all the romantic ideas of government, which, happily for America, we were cured of before it was too late."
The foregoing brief notices of affairs in revolutionary France, and of the feelings with which they were viewed by American statesmen resident there, will be found of service in illustrating subsequent events in the United States.
The first news of the revolution reached America in October, and was hailed by the great mass of the people with enthusiasm. Washington, in reply to his old comrade in arms, the Count de Rochambeau, observes: "I am persuaded I express the sentiments of my fellowcitizens, when I offer an earnest prayer that it may terminate in the permanent honor and happiness of your government and people.”
But, in a reply of the same date (13th Oct.) to Gouverneur Morris, he shows that his circumspect and cautious spirit was not to be hurried away by popular excitement. “The revolution which has been effected in France," writes he, “is of so wonderful a nature, that the mind can hardly realize the fact. If it ends as our last accounts to the 1st of August predict, that nation will be the most powerful and happy in Europe ; but I fear, though it has gone triumphantly through the first paroxysm, it is not the last it has to encounter before matters are finally settled. In a word, 1789.] HAMILTON'S VIEWS OF EVENTS IN FRANCE.
the revolution is of too great a magnitude to be effected in so short a space, and with the loss of so little blood. The mortification of the king, the intrigues of the queen, and the discontent of the princes and noblesse, will foment divisions, if possible, in the National Assembly ; and they will, unquestionably, avail themselves of
every faux pas in the formation of the constitution, if they do not give a more open, active opposition. In addition to these, the licentiousness of the people on one hand, and sanguinary punishments on the other, will alarm the best disposed friends to the measure, and contribute not a little to the overthrow of their object. Great temperance, firmness, and foresight are necessary in the movements of that body. To forbear running from one extreme to another, is no easy matter; and should this be the case, rocks and shelves, not visible at present, may wreck the vessel and give a highertoned despotism than the one which existed before." *
Hamilton, too, regarded the recent events in France with a mixture of pleasure and apprehension. In a letter to Lafayette he writes: “As a friend to mankind and to liberty, I rejoice in the efforts which you are making to establish it, while I fear much for the final success of the attempts, for the fate of those who are engaged in it, and for the danger, in case of success, of innovations greater than will consist with the real felicity of your nation.
I dread disagreements among those who are now united, about the nature of your constitution; I dread the vehement character of your people, whom, I fear, you may find it more easy to bring on, than to keep within proper bounds
* Writings of Washington, x. 39.