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A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793, 1794 and 1795, by An English Lady

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Produced by Mary Munarin and David Widger

1792, 1793, 1794, AND 1795;

With General And Incidental Remarks
On The French Character And Manners.

Prepared for the Press
By John Gifford, Esq.
Author of the History of France, Letter to Lord
Lauderdale, Letter to the Hon. T. Erskine, &c.

Second Edition.

_Plus je vis l'Etranger plus j'aimai ma Patrie._
--Du Belloy.

London: Printed for T. N. Longman, Paternoster Row. 1797.


Amiens, January, 1793.

Vanity, I believe, my dear brother, is not so innoxious a quality as we
are desirous of supposing. As it is the most general of all human
failings, so is it regarded with the most indulgence: a latent
consciousness averts the censure of the weak; and the wise, who flatter
themselves with being exempt from it, plead in its favour, by ranking it
as a foible too light for serious condemnation, or too inoffensive for
punishment. Yet, if vanity be not an actual vice, it is certainly a
potential one--it often leads us to seek reputation rather than virtue,
to substitute appearances for realities, and to prefer the eulogiums of
the world to the approbation of our own minds. When it takes possession
of an uninformed or an ill-constituted mind, it becomes the source of a
thousand errors, and a thousand absurdities. Hence, youth seeks a
preeminence in vice, and age in folly; hence, many boast of errors they
would not commit, or claim distinction by investing themselves with an
imputation of excess in some popular absurdity--duels are courted by the
daring, and vaunted by the coward--he who trembles at the idea of death
and a future state when alone, proclaims himself an atheist or a
free-thinker in public--the water-drinker, who suffers the penitence of
a week for a supernumerary glass, recounts the wonders of his
intemperance--and he who does not mount the gentlest animal without
trepidation, plumes himself on breaking down horses, and his perils in
the chace. In short, whatever order of mankind we contemplate, we shall
perceive that the portion of vanity allotted us by nature, when it is
not corrected by a sound judgement, and rendered subservient to useful
purposes, is sure either to degrade or mislead us.

I was led into this train of reflection by the conduct of our
Anglo-Gallican legislator, Mr. Thomas Paine. He has lately composed a
speech, which was translated and read in his presence, (doubtless to his
great satisfaction,) in which he insists with much vehemence on the
necessity of trying the King; and he even, with little credit to his
humanity, gives intimations of presumed guilt. Yet I do not suspect Mr.
Paine to be of a cruel or unmerciful nature; and, most probably, vanity
alone has instigated him to a proceeding which, one would wish to
believe, his heart disapproves. Tired of the part he was playing, and
which, it must be confessed, was not calculated to flatter the censurer
of Kings and the reformer of constitutions, he determined to sit no
longer for whole hours in colloquy with his interpreter, or in mute
contemplation, like the Chancellor in the Critic; and the speech to
which I have alluded was composed. Knowing that lenient opinions would
meet no applause from the tribunes, he inlists himself on the side of
severity, accuses all the Princes in the world as the accomplices of
Louis the Sixteenth, expresses his desire for an universal revolution,
and, after previously assuring the Convention the King is guilty,
recommends that they may instantly proceed to his trial. But, after all
this tremendous eloquence, perhaps Mr. Paine had no malice in his heart:
he may only be solicitous to preserve his reputation from decay, and to
indulge his self-importance by assisting at the trial of a Monarch whom
he may not wish to suffer.--I think, therefore, I am not wrong in
asserting, that Vanity is a very mischievous counsellor.

The little distresses I formerly complained of, as arising from the paper
currency, are nearly removed by a plentiful emission of small assignats,
and we have now pompous assignments on the national domains for ten sols:
we have, likewise, pieces coined from the church bells in circulation,
but most of these disappear as soon as issued. You would scarcely
imagine that this copper is deemed worthy to be hoarded; yet such is the
people's aversion from the paper, and such their mistrust of the
government, that not an housewife will part with one of these pieces
while she has an assignat in her possession; and those who are rich
enough to keep a few livres by them, amass and bury this copper treasure
with the utmost solicitude and secresy.

A tolerably accurate scale of the national confidence might be made, by
marking the progress of these suspicious interments. Under the first
Assembly, people began to hide their gold; during the reign of the second
they took the same affectionate care of their silver; and, since the
meeting of the Convention, they seem equally anxious to hide any metal
they can get. If one were to describe the present age, one might, as far
as regards France, call it, both literally and metaphorically, the Iron
Age; for it is certain, the character of the times would justify the
metaphoric application, and the disappearance of every other metal the
literal one. As the French are fond of classic examples, I shall not be
surprized to see an iron coinage, in imitation of Sparta, though they
seem in the way of having one reason less for such a measure than the
Spartans had, for they are already in a state to defy corruption; and if
they were not, I think a war with England would secure the purity of
their morals from being endangered by too much commercial intercourse.

I cannot be displeased with the civil things you say of my letters, nor
at your valuing them so much as to preserve them; though, I assure you,
this fraternal gallantry is not necessary, on the account you intimate,
nor will our countrymen suffer, in my opinion, by any comparisons I can
make here. Your ideas of French gallantry are, indeed, very erroneous--
it may differ in the manner from that practised in England, but is far
from having any claim to superiority. Perhaps I cannot define the
pretensions of the two nations in this respect better than by saying,
that the gallantry of an Englishman is a sentiment--that of a Frenchman a
system. The first, if a lady happen to be old or plain, or indifferent
to him, is apt to limit his attentions to respect, or utility--now the
latter never troubles himself with these distinctions: he is repulsed by
no extremity of years, nor deformity of feature; he adores, with equal
ardour, both young and old, nor is either often shocked by his visible
preference of the other. I have seen a youthful beau kiss, with perfect
devotion, a ball of cotton dropped from the hand of a lady who was
knitting stockings for her grand-children. Another pays his court to a
belle in her climacteric, by bringing _gimblettes_ [A sort of
gingerbread.] to the favourite lap-dog, or attending, with great
assiduity, the egresses and regresses of her angola, who paces slowly out
of the room ten times in an hour, while the door is held open by the
complaisant Frenchman with a most respectful gravity.

Thus, you see, France is to the old what a masquerade is to the ugly
--the one confounds the disparity of age as the other does that of
person; but indiscriminate adoration is no compliment to youth, nor is a
mask any privilege to beauty. We may therefore conclude, that though
France may be the Elysium of old women, England is that of the young.
When I first came into this country, it reminded me of an island I had
read of in the Arabian Tales, where the ladies were not deemed in their
bloom till they verged towards seventy; and I conceived the project of
inviting all the belles, who had been half a century out of fashion in
England, to cross the Channel, and begin a new career of admiration!--
Yours, &c.

Amiens, 1793.

Dear Brother,

I have thought it hitherto a self evident proposition--that of all the
principles which can be inculcated in the human mind, that of liberty is
least susceptible of propagation by force. Yet a Council of Philosophers
(disciples of Rousseau and Voltaire) have sent forth Dumouriez, at the
head of an hundred thousand men, to instruct the people of Flanders in
the doctrine of freedom. Such a missionary is indeed invincible, and the
defenceless towns of the Low Countries have been converted and pillaged
[By the civil agents of the executive power.] by a benevolent crusade of
the philanthropic assertors of the rights of man. These warlike
Propagandistes, however, do not always convince without experiencing
resistance, and ignorance sometimes opposes, with great obstinacy, the
progress of truth. The logic of Dumouriez did not enforce conviction at
Gemappe, but at the expence of fifteen thousand of his own army, and,
doubtless, a proportionate number of the unconverted.

Here let me forbear every expression tending to levity: the heart recoils
at such a slaughter of human victims; and, if a momentary smile be
excited by these Quixotisms, it is checked by horror at their
consequences!--Humanity will lament such destruction; but it will
likewise be indignant to learn, that, in the official account of this
battle, the killed were estimated at three hundred, and the wounded at
six!--But, if the people be sacrificed, they are not deceived. The
disabled sufferers, who are returning to their homes in different parts
of the republic, betray the turpitude of the government, and expose the
fallacy of these bloodless victories of the gazettes. The pedants of the
Convention are not unlearned in the history of the Praetorian Bands and
the omnipotence of armies; and an offensive war is undertaken to give
occupation to the soldiers, whose inactivity might produce reflection, or
whose discontent might prove fatal to the new order of things.--Attempts
are made to divert the public mind from the real misery experienced at
home, by relations of useless conquests abroad; the substantial losses,
which are the price of these imaginary benefits, are palliated or
concealed; and the circumstances of an engagement is known but by
individual communication, and when subsequent events have nearly effaced
the remembrance of it.--By these artifices, and from motives at least not
better, and, perhaps, worse than those I have mentioned, will population
be diminished, and agriculture impeded: France will be involved in
present distress, and consigned to future want; and the deluded people be
punished in the miseries of their own country, because their unprincipled
rulers have judged it expedient to carry war and devastation into

One of the distinguishing features in the French character is _sang froid_
--scarcely a day passes that it does not force itself on one's
observation. It is not confined to the thinking part of the people, who
know that passion and irritability avail nothing; nor to those who, not
thinking at all, are, of course, not moved by any thing: but is equally
possessed by every rank and condition, whether you class them by their
mental endowments, or their temporal possessions. They not only (as, it
must be confessed, is too commonly the case in all countries,) bear the
calamities of their friends with great philosophy, but are nearly as
reasonable under the pressure of their own. The grief of a Frenchman,
at least, partakes of his imputed national complaisance, and, far from
intruding itself on society, is always ready to accept of consolation,
and join in amusement. If you say your wife or relations are dead, they
replay coldly, _"Il faut se consoler:"_ or if they visit you in an
illness, _"Il faut prendre patience."_ Or tell them you are ruined, and
their features then become something more attenuated, the shoulders
something more elevated, and a more commiserating tone confesses, _"C'est
bien mal beureux--Mai enfin que voulez vous?"_ ["It's unlucky, but what
can be said in such cases?"] and in the same instant they ill recount
some good fortune at a card party, or expatiate on the excellence of a
ragout.--Yet, to do them justice, they only offer for your comfort the
same arguments they would have found efficacious in promoting their own.

This disposition, which preserves the tranquillity of the rich, indurates
the sense of wretchedness in the poor; it supplies the place of fortitude
in the one, and that of patience in the other; and, while it enables both
to endure their own particular distresses, it makes them submit quietly
to a weight and excess of public evils, which any nation but their own
would sink under, or resist. Amongst shopkeepers, servants, &c. without
incurring personal odium, it has the effect of what would be deemed in
England impenetrable assurance. It forces pertinaceously an article not
wanted, and preserves the inflexibility of the features at a detected
imposition: it inspires servants with arguments in defence of every
misdemeanour in the whole domestic catalogue; it renders them insensible
either of their negligences or the consequences of them; and endows them
with a happy facility of contradicting with the most obsequious

A gentleman of our acquaintances dined at a table d'Hote, where the
company were annoyed by a very uncommon and offensive smell. On cutting
up a fowl, they discovered the smell to have been occasioned by its being
dressed with out any other preparation than that of depluming. They
immediately sent for the host, and told him, that the fowl had been
dressed without having been drawn: but, far from appearing disconcerted,
as one might expect, he only replied, _"Cela se pourroit bien,
Monsieur."_ ["'Tis very possible, Sir."] Now an English Boniface, even
though he had already made his fortune, would have been mortified at such
an incident, and all his eloquence would scarcely have produced an
unfaultering apology.

Whether this national indifference originate in a physical or a moral
cause, from an obtuseness in their corporeal formation or a perfection in
their intellectual one, I do not pretend to decide; but whatever be the
cause, the effect is enjoyed with great modesty. So little do the French
pique themselves on this valuable stoicism, that they acknowledge being
more subject to that human weakness called feeling, than any other people
in the world. All their writers abound in pathetic exclamations,
sentimental phrases, and allusions to "la sensibilite Francaise," as
though they imagined it proverbial. You can scarcely hold a conversation
with a Frenchman without hearing him detail, with an expression of
feature not always analogous, many very affecting sentences. He is
_desole, desespere, or afflige_--he has _le coeur trop sensible, le coeur
serre, or le coeur navre;_ [Afflicted--in despair--too feeling a heart--
his heart is wrung or wounded.] and the well-placing of these dolorous
assertions depends rather upon the judgement and eloquence of the
speaker, than the seriousness of the case which gives rise to them. For
instance, the despair and desolation of him who has lost his money, and
of him whose head is ill drest, are of different degrees, but the
expressions are usually the same. The debates of the Convention, the
debates of the Jacobins, and all the public prints, are fraught with
proofs of this appropriated susceptibility, and it is often attributed to
persons and occasions where we should not much expect to find it. A
quarrel between the legislators as to who was most concerned in promoting
the massacres of September, is reconciled with a "sweet and enthusiastic
excess of fraternal tenderness." When the clubs dispute on the
expediency of an insurrection, or the necessity of a more frequent
employment of the guillotine, the debate terminates by overflowing of
sensibility from all the members who have engaged in it!

At the assassinations in one of the prisons, when all the other miserable
victims had perished, the mob discovered one Jonneau, a member of the
Assembly, who had been confined for kicking another member named
Grangeneuve.* As the massacrers probably had no orders on the subject,
he was brought forth, from amidst heaps of murdered companions, and a
messenger dispatched to the Assembly, (which during these scenes met as
usual,) to enquire if they acknowledged Jonneau as a member. A decree
was passed in the affirmative, and Jonneau brought by the assassins, with
the decree fastened on his breast, in triumph to his colleagues, who, we
are told, at this instance of respect for themselves, shed tears of
tenderness and admiration at the conduct of monsters, the sight of whom
should seem revolting to human nature.

* When the massacres began, the wife and friends of Jonneau
petitioned Grangeneuve on their knees to consent to his enlargement;
but Grangeneuve was implacable, and Jonneau continued in prison till
released by the means above mentioned. It is observable, that at
this dreadful moment the utmost strictness was observed, and every
form literally enforced in granting the discharge of a prisoner. A
suspension of all laws, human and divine, was allowed to the
assassins, while those only that secured them their victims were
rigidly adhered to.

Perhaps the real sang froid I have before noticed, and these pretensions
to sensibility, are a natural consequence one or the other. It is the
history of the beast's confession--we have only to be particularly
deficient in any quality, to make us solicitous for the reputation of it;
and after a long habit of deceiving others we finish by deceiving
ourselves. He who feels no compassion for the distresses of his
neighbour, knows that such indifference is not very estimable; he
therefore studies to disguise the coldness of his heart by the
exaggeration of his language, and supplies, by an affected excess of
sentiment, the total absence of it.--The gods have not (as you know) made
me poetical, nor do I often tax your patience with a simile, but I think
this French sensibility is to genuine feeling, what their paste is to the
diamond--it gratifies the vanity of the wearer, and deceives the eye of
the superficial observer, but is of little use or value, and when tried
by the fire of adversity quickly disappears.

You are not much obliged to me for this long letter, as I own I have
scribbled rather for my own amusement than with a view to yours.--
Contrary to our expectation, the trial of the King has begun; and, though
I cannot properly be said to have any real interest in the affairs of
this country, I take a very sincere one in the fate of its unfortunate
Monarch--indeed our whole house has worn an appearance of dejection since
the commencement of the business. Most people seem to expect it will
terminate favourably, and, I believe, there are few who do not wish it.
Even the Convention seem at present disposed to be merciful; and as they
judge now, so may they be judged hereafter!


Amiens, January 1793.

I do all possible justice to the liberality of my countrymen, who are
become such passionate admirers of the French; and I cannot but lament
their having been so unfortunate in the choice of the aera from whence
they date this new friendship. It is, however, a proof, that their
regards are not much the effect of that kind of vanity which esteems
objects in proportion as they are esteemed by the rest of the world; and
the sincerity of an attachment cannot be better evinced than by its
surviving irretrievable disgrace and universal abhorrence. Many will
swell the triumph of a hero, or add a trophy to his tomb; but he who
exhibits himself with a culprit at the gallows, or decorates the gibbet
with a wreath, is a friend indeed.

If ever the character of a people were repugnant to amity, or inimical to
connection, it is that of the French for the last three years.--*

* The editor of the _Courier de l'Egalite,_ a most decided patriot,
thus expresses himself on the injuries and insults received by the
King from the Parisians, and their municipality, previous to his

"I know that Louis is guilty--but are we to double his punishment
before it is pronounced by the law? Indeed one is tempted to say
that, instead of being guided by the humanity and philosophy which
dictated the revolution, we have taken lessons of barbarity from the
most ferocious savages! Let us be virtuous if we would be
republicans; if we go on as we do, we never shall, and must have
recourse to a despot: for of two evils it is better to choose the

The editor, whose opinion of the present politics is thus expressed, is
so truly a revolutionist, and so confidential a patriot, that, in August
last, when almost all the journalists were murdered, his paper was the
only one that, for some time, was allowed to reach the departments.

In this short space they have formed a compendium of all the vices which
have marked as many preceding ages:--the cruelty and treachery of the
league--the sedition, levity, and intrigue of the _Fronde_ [A name given
to the party in opposition to the court during Cardinal Mazarin's
ministry.--See the origin of it in the Memoirs of that period.] with the
licentiousness and political corruption of more modern epochs. Whether
you examine the conduct of the nation at large, or that of its chiefs and
leaders, your feelings revolt at the one, and your integrity despises the
other. You see the idols erected by Folly, degraded by Caprice;--the
authority obtained by Intrigue, bartered by Profligacy;--and the perfidy
and corruption of one side so balanced by the barbarity and levity of the
other, that the mind, unable to decide on the preference of contending
vices, is obliged to find repose, though with regret and disgust, in
acknowledging the general depravity.

La Fayette, without very extraordinary pretensions, became the hero of
the revolution. He dictated laws in the Assembly, and prescribed oaths
to the Garde Nationale--and, more than once, insulted, by the triumph of
ostentatious popularity, the humiliation and distress of a persecuted
Sovereign. Yet when La Fayette made an effort to maintain the
constitution to which he owed his fame and influence, he was abandoned
with the same levity with which he had been adopted, and sunk, in an
instant, from a dictator to a fugitive!

Neckar was an idol of another description. He had already departed for
his own country, when he was hurried back precipitately, amidst universal
acclamations. All were full of projects either of honour or recompence--
one was for decreeing him a statue, another proposed him a pension, and a
third hailed him the father of the country. But Mr. Neckar knew the
French character, and very wisely declined these pompous offers; for
before he could have received the first quarter of his pension, or the
statue could have been modelled, he was glad to escape, probably not
without some apprehensions for his head!

The reign of Mirabeau was something longer. He lived with popularity,
was fortunate enough to die before his reputation was exhausted, was
deposited in the Pantheon, apotheosised in form, and his bust placed as a
companion to that of Brutus, the tutelary genius of the Assembly.--Here,
one might have expected, he would have been quit for this world at least;
but the fame of a patriot is not secured by his death, nor can the gods
of the French be called immortal: the deification of Mirabeau is
suspended, his memory put in sequestration, and a committee appointed to
enquire, whether a profligate, expensive, and necessitous character was
likely to be corruptible. The Convention, too, seem highly indignant
that a man, remarkable only for vice and atrocity, should make no
conscience of betraying those who were as bad as himself; and that, after
having prostituted his talents from the moment he was conscious of them,
he should not, when associated with such immaculate colleagues, become
pure and disinterested. It is very probable that Mirabeau, whose only
aim was power, might rather be willing to share it with the King, as
Minister, than with so many competitors, and only as Prime Speechmaker to
the Assembly: and as he had no reason for suspecting the patriotism of
others to be more inflexible than his own, he might think it not
impolitic to anticipate a little the common course of things, and betray
his companions, before they had time to stipulate for felling him. He
might, too, think himself more justified in disposing of them in the
gross, because he did not thereby deprive them of their right of
bargaining for themselves, and for each other in detail.--*

* La Porte, Steward of the Household, in a letter to Duquesnoy, [Not
the brutal Dusquenoy hereafter mentioned.] dated February, 1791,
informs him that Barrere, Chairman of the Committee of Domains, is
in the best disposition possible.--A letter of Talon, (then
minister,) with remarks in the margin by the King, says, that
"Sixteen of the most violent members on the patriotic side may be
brought over to the court, and that the expence will not exceed two
millions of livres: that fifteen thousand will be sufficient for the
first payment; and only a Yes or No from his Majesty will fix these
members in his interest, and direct their future conduct."--It
likewise observes, that these two millions will cost the King
nothing, as the affair is already arranged with the

Extract of a letter from Chambonas to the King, dated June 18, 1792:


"I inform your Majesty, that my agents are now in motion. I have
just been converting an evil spirit. I cannot hope that I have made
him good, but I believe I have neutralized him.--To-night we shall
make a strong effort to gain Santerre, (Commandant of the Garde
Nationale,) and I have ordered myself to be awakened to hear the
result. I shall take care to humour the different interests as well
as I can.--The Secretary of the Cordeliers club is now secured.--All
these people are to be bought, but not one of them can be hired.--I
have had with me one Mollet a physician. Perhaps your Majesty may
have heard of him. He is an outrageous Jacobin, and very difficult,
for he will receive nothing. He insists, previous to coming to any
definitive treaty, on being named Physician to the Army. I have
promised him, on condition that Paris is kept quiet for fifteen
days. He is now gone to exert himself in our favour. He has great
credit at the Caffe de Procope, where all the journalists and
'enragis' of the Fauxbourg St. Germain assemble. I hope he will
keep his word.--The orator of the people, the noted Le Maire, a
clerk at the Post-office, has promised tranquility for a week, and
he is to be rewarded.

"A new Gladiator has appeared lately on the scene, one Ronedie
Breton, arrived from England. He has already been exciting the
whole quarter of the Poisonnerie in favour of the Jacobins, but I
shall have him laid siege to.--Petion is to come to-morrow for
fifteen thousand livres, [This sum was probably only to propitiate
the Mayor; and if Chambonas, as he proposed, refused farther
payment, we may account for Petion's subsequent conduct.] on account
of thirty thousand per month which he received under the
administration of Dumouriez, for the secret service of the police.--
I know not in virtue of what law this was done, and it will be the
last he shall receive from me. Your Majesty will, I doubt not,
understand me, and approve of what I suggest.

(Signed) "Chambonas."
Extract from the Papers found at the Thuilleries.

It is impossible to warrant the authenticity of these Papers; on
their credibility, however, rests the whole proof of the most
weighty charges brought against the King. So that it must be
admitted, that either all the first patriots of the revolution, and
many of those still in repute, are corrupt, or that the King was
condemned on forged evidence.

The King might also be solicitous to purchase safety and peace at any
rate; and it is unfortunate for himself and the country that he had not
recourse to the only effectual means till it was too late. But all this
rests on no better evidence than the papers found at the Thuilleries; and
as something of this kind was necessary to nourish the exhausted fury of
the populace, I can easily conceive that it was thought more prudent to
sacrifice the dead, than the living; and the fame of Mirabeau being less
valuable than the safety of those who survived him, there would be no
great harm in attributing to him what he was very likely to have done.--
The corruption of a notorious courtier would have made no impression: the
King had already been overwhelmed with such accusations, and they had
lost their effect: but to have seduced the virtuous Mirabeau, the very
Confucius of the revolution, was a kind of profanation of the holy fire,
well calculated to revive the languid rage, and extinguish the small
remains of humanity yet left among the people.

It is sufficiently remarkable, that notwithstanding the court must have
seen the necessity of gaining over the party now in power, no vestige of
any attempt of this kind has been discovered; and every criminating
negotiation is ascribed to the dead, the absent, or the insignificant. I
do not, however, presume to decide in a case so very delicate; their
panegyrists in England may adjust the claims of Mirabeau's integrity, and
that of his accusers, at their leisure.

Another patriot of "distinguished note," and more peculiarly interesting
to our countrymen, because he has laboured much for their conversion, is
Talleyrand, Bishop of Autun.--He was in England some time as
Plenipotentiary from the Jacobins, charged with establishing treaties
between the clubs, publishing seditious manifestoes, contracting friendly
alliances with discontented scribblers, and gaining over neutral or
hostile newspapers.--But, besides his political and ecclesiastical
occupations, and that of writing letters to the Constitutional Society,
it seems this industrious Prelate had likewise a correspondence with the
Agents of the Court, which, though he was too modest to surcharge his
fame by publishing it, was, nevertheless, very profitable.

I am sorry his friends in England are mostly averse from episcopacy,
otherwise they might have provided for him, as I imagine he will have no
objection to relinquish his claims on the see of Autun. He is not under
accusation, and, were he to return, he would not find the laws quite so
ceremonious here as in England. After labouring with impunity for months
together to promote an insurrection with you, a small private barter of
his talents would here cost him his head; and I appeal to the Bishop's
friends in England, whether there can be a proper degree of freedom in a
country where a man is refused the privilege of disposing of himself to
the best advantage.

To the eternal obloquy of France, I must conclude, in the list of those
once popular, the ci-devant Duke of Orleans. But it was an unnatural
popularity, unaided by a single talent, or a single virtue, supported
only by the venal efforts of those who were almost his equals in vice,
though not in wealth, and who found a grateful exercise for their
abilities in at once profiting by the weak ambition of a bad man, and
corrupting the public morals in his favour. The unrighteous compact is
now dissolved; those whom he ruined himself to bribe have already
forsaken him, and perhaps may endeavour to palliate the disgrace of
having been called his friends, by becoming his persecutors.--Thus, many
of the primitive patriots are dead, or fugitives, or abandoned, or
treacherous; and I am not without fear lest the new race should prove as
evanescent as the old.

The virtuous Rolland,* whose first resignation was so instrumental in
dethroning the King, has now been obliged to resign a second time,
charged with want of capacity, and suspected of malversation; and this
virtue, which was so irreproachable, which it would have been so
dangerous to dispute while it served the purposes of party, is become
hypocrisy, and Rolland will be fortunate if he return to obscurity with
only the loss of his gains and his reputation.

* In the beginning of December, the Council-General of the
municipality of Paris opened a register, and appointed a Committee
to receive all accusations and complaints whatever against Rolland,
who, in return, summoned them to deliver in their accounts to him as
Minister of the interior, and accused them, at the same time, of the
most scandalous peculations.

The credit of Brissot and the Philosophers is declining fast--the clubs
are unpropitious, and no party long survives this formidable omen; so
that, like Macbeth, they will have waded from one crime to another, only
to obtain a short-lived dominion, at the expence of eternal infamy, and
an unlamented fall.

Dumouriez is still a successful General, but he is denounced by one
faction, insulted by another, insidiously praised by a third, and, if he
should persevere in serving them, he has more disinterested rectitude
than I suspect him of, or than they merit. This is another of that
Jacobin ministry which proved so fatal to the King; and it is evident
that, had he been permitted to entertain the same opinion of all these
people as they now profess to have of each other, he would have been
still living, and secure on his throne.

After so many mutual infidelities, it might be expected that one party
would grow indifferent, and the other suspicious; but the French never
despair: new hordes of patriots prepare to possess themselves of the
places they are forcing the old ones to abandon, and the people, eager
for change, are ready to receive them with the momentary and fallacious
enthusiasm which ever precedes disgrace; while those who are thus
intriguing for power and influence, are, perhaps, secretly devising how
it may be made most subservient to their personal advantage.

Yet, perhaps, these amiable levities may not be displeasing to the
Constitutional Society and the revolutionists of England; and, as the
very faults of our friends are often endearing to us, they may extend
their indulgence to the "humane" and "liberal" precepts of the Jacobins,
and the massacres of September.--To confess the truth, I am not a little
ashamed for my country when I see addresses from England to a Convention,
the members of which have just been accusing each other of assassination
and robbery, or, in the ardour of a debate, threatening, cuffing, and
knocking each other down. Exclusive of their moral character, considered
only as it appears from their reciprocal criminations, they have so
little pretension to dignity, or even decency, that it seems a mockery to
address them as the political representatives of a powerful nation
deliberating upon important affairs.

If a bearer of one of these congratulatory compliments were not apprized
of the forms of the House, he would be rather astonished, at his
introduction, to see one member in a menacing attitude, and another
denying his veracity in terms perfectly explicit, though not very civil.
Perhaps, in two minutes, the partizans of each opponent all rise and
clamour, as if preparing for a combat--the President puts on his hat as
the signal of a storm--the subordinate disputants are appeased--and the
revilings of the principal ones renewed; till, after torrents of indecent
language, the quarrel is terminated by a fraternal embrace.*--I think,
after such a scene, an addresser must feel a little humiliated, and would
return without finding his pride greatly increased by his mission.

* I do not make any assertions of this nature from conjecture or
partial evidence. The journals of the time attest that the scenes I
describe occur almost in every debate.--As a proof, I subjoin some
extracts taken nearly at hazard:

"January 7th, Convention Nationale, Presidence de Treilhard.--The
debate was opened by an address from the department of Finisterre,
expressing their wishes, and adding, that these were likewise the
wishes of the nation at large--that Marat, Robespierre, Bazire,
Chabot, Merlin, Danton, and their accomplices, might be expelled the
Convention as caballers and intriguers paid by the tyrants at war
with France."

The account of this debate is thus continued--"The almost daily
troubles which arise in the Convention were on the point of being
renewed, when a member, a friend to order, spoke as follows, and, it
is remarked, was quietly listened to:


"'If three months of uninterrupted silence has given me any claim to
your attention, I now ask it in the name of our afflicted country.
Were I to continue silent any longer, I should render myself as
culpable as those who never hold their tongues. I see we are all
sensible of the painfulness of our situation. Every day
dissatisfied with ourselves, we come to the debate with the
intention of doing something, and every day we return without having
done any thing. The people expect from us wise laws, and not storms
and tumults. How are we to make these wise laws, and keep
twenty-five millions of people quiet, when we, who are only seven
hundred and fifty individuals, give an example of perpetual riot and
disorder? What signifies our preaching the unity and indivisibility
of the republic, when we cannot maintain peace and union amongst
ourselves? What good can we expect to do amidst such scandalous
disturbances, and while we spend our time in attending to
informations, accusations, and inculpations, for the most part
utterly unfounded? For my part, I see but one means of attaining
any thing like dignity and tranquillity, and that is, by submitting
ourselves to coercive regulations.'"

Here follow some proposals, tending to establish a little decency in
their proceedings for the future; but the account from whence this
extract is taken proceeds to remark, that this invitation to peace
was no sooner finished, than a new scene of disturbance took place,
to the great loss of their time, and the scandal of all good
citizens. One should imagine, that if ever the Convention could
think it necessary to assume an appearance of dignity, or at least
of seriousness and order, it would be in giving their judgement
relative to the King. Yet, in determining how a series of questions
should be discussed, on the arrangement of which his fate seems much
to have depended, the solemnity of the occasion appears to have had
no weight. It was proposed to begin by that of the appeal to the
people. This was so violently combated, that the Convention would
hear neither party, and were a long time without debating at all.
Petion mounted the tribune, and attempted to restore order; but the
noise was too great for him to be heard. He at length, however,
obtained silence enough to make a motion. Again the murmurs
recommenced. Rabaud de St. Etienne made another attempt, but was
equally unsuccessful. Those that were of an opposite opinion
refused to hear him, and both parties rose up and rushed together to
the middle of the Hall. The most dreadful tumult took place, and
the President, with great difficulty, procured a calm. Again the
storm began, and a member told them, that if they voted in the
affirmative, those on the left side (Robespierre, &c.) would not
wait the result, but have the King assassinated. "Yes! Yes!
(resounded from all parts) the Scelerats of Paris will murder him!"
--Another violent disorder ensuing, it was thought no decree could
be passed, and, at length, amidst this scene of riot and confusion,
the order of questions was arranged, and in such a manner as to
decide the fate of the King.--It was determined, that the question
of his guilt should precede that of the appeal to the people. Had
the order of the questions been changed, the King might have been
saved, for many would have voted for the appeal in the first
instance who did not dare do it when they found the majority
resolved to pronounce him guilty.

It is very remarkable, that, on the same day on which the friends of
liberty and equality of Manchester signalized themselves by a most
patriotic compliment to the Convention, beginning with _"Francais, vous
etes libres,"_ ["Frenchmen, you are free."] they were, at that very
moment, employed in discussing a petition from numbers of Parisians who
had been thrown into prison without knowing either their crime or their
accusers, and were still detained under the same arbitrary
circumstances.--The law of the constitution is, that every person
arrested shall be interrogated within twenty-four hours; but as these
imprisonments were the work of the republican Ministers, the Convention
seemed to think it indelicate to interpose, and these citizens of a
country whose freedom is so much envied by the Manchester Society, will
most likely remain in durance as long as their confinement shall be
convenient to those who have placed them there.--A short time after,
Villette, who is a news-writer and deputy, was cited to appear before the
municipality of Paris, under the charge of having inserted in his paper
"equivocal phrases and anti-civic expressions, tending to diminish the
confidence due to the municipality."--Villette, as being a member of the
Convention, obtained redress; but had he been only a journalist, the
liberty of the press would not have rescued him.--On the same day,
complaint was made in the Assembly, that one man had been arrested
instead of another, and confined for some weeks, and it was agreed
unanimously, (a thing that does not often occur,) that the powers
exercised by the Committee of Inspection [Surveillance.--See Debates,
December.] were incompatible with liberty.

The patriots of Belfast were not more fortunate in the adaption of their
civilities--they addressed the Convention, in a strain of great piety, to
congratulate them on the success of their arms in the "cause of civil and
religious liberty."*

* At this time the municipalities were empowered to search all
houses by night or day; but their visites domiciliaires, as they are
called, being made chiefly in the night, a decree has since ordained
that they shall take place only during the day. Perhaps an
Englishman may think the latter quite sufficient, considering that
France is the freeest country in the world, and, above all, a

The harangue was interrupted by the _mal-a-propos_ entrance of two
deputies, who complained of having been beaten, almost hanged, and half
drowned, by the people of Chartres, for belonging, as they were told, to
an assembly of atheistical persecutors of religion; and this Convention,
whom the Society of Belfast admire for propagating "religious liberty" in
other countries, were in a few days humbly petitioned, from various
departments, not to destroy it in their own. I cannot, indeed, suppose
they have really such a design; but the contempt with which they treat
religion has occasioned an alarm, and given the French an idea of their
piety very different from that so kindly conceived by the patriots of

I entrust this to our friend Mrs. ____, who is leaving France in a few
days; and as we are now on the eve of a war, it will be the last letter
you will receive, except a few lines occasionally on our private affairs,
or to inform you of my health. As we cannot, in the state Mrs. D____ is
in, think of returning to England at present, we must trust ourselves to
the hospitality of the French for at least a few weeks, and I certainly
will not abuse it, by sending any remarks on their political affairs out
of the country. But as I know you interest yourself much in the subject,
and read with partiality my attempts to amuse you, I will continue to
throw my observations on paper as regularly as I have been accustomed to
do, and I hope, ere long, to be the bearer of the packets myself. I here
also renew my injunction, that no part of my correspondence that relates
to French politics be communicated to any one, not even my mother. What
I have written has been merely to gratify your own curiosity, and I
should be extremely mortified if my opinions were repeated even in the
little circle of our private acquaintance. I deem myself perfectly
justifiable in imparting my reflections to you, but I have a sort of
delicacy that revolts at the thought of being, in the remotest degree,
accessary to conveying intelligence from a country in which I reside,
and which is so peculiarly situated as France is at this moment. My
feelings, my humanity, are averse from those who govern, but I should
regret to be the means of injuring them. You cannot mistake my
intentions, and I conclude by seriously reminding you of the promise I
exacted previous to any political discussion.--Adieu.

Amiens, February 15, 1793.

I did not, as I promised, write immediately on my return from Chantilly;
the person by whom I intended to send my letter having already set out
for England, and the rule I have observed for the last three months of
entrusting nothing to the post but what relates to our family affairs,
is now more than ever necessary. I have before requested, and I must now
insist, that you make no allusion to any political matter whatever, nor
even mention the name of any political person. Do not imagine that you
are qualified to judge of what is prudent, or what may be written with
safety--I repeat, no one in England can form an idea of the suspicion
that pervades every part of the French government.

I cannot venture to answer decisively your question respecting the King--
indeed the subject is so painful to me, that I have hitherto avoided
reverting to it. There certainly was, as you observe, some sudden
alteration in the dispositions of the Assembly between the end of the
trial and the final judgement. The causes were most probably various,
and must be sought for in the worst vices of our nature--cruelty,
avarice, and cowardice. Many, I doubt not, were guided only by the
natural malignity of their hearts; many acted from fear, and expected to
purchase impunity for former compliances with the court by this popular
expiation; a large number are also supposed to have been paid by the Duke
of Orleans--whether for the gratification of malice or ambition, time
must develope.--But, whatever were the motives, the result was an
iniquitous combination of the worst of a set of men, before selected from
all that was bad in the nation, to profane the name of justice--to
sacrifice an unfortunate, but not a guilty Prince--and to fix an
indelible stain on the country.

Among those who gave their opinion at large, you will observe Paine: and,
as I intimated in a former letter, it seems he was at that time rather
allured by the vanity of making a speech that should be applauded, than
by any real desire of injuring the King. Such vanity, however, is not
pardonable: a man has a right to ruin himself, or to make himself
ridiculous; but when his vanity becomes baneful to others, as it has all
the effect, so does it merit the punishment, of vice.

Of all the rest, Condorcet has most powerfully disgusted me. The avowed
wickedness of Thuriot or Marat inspires one with horror; but this cold
philosophic hypocrite excites contempt as well as detestation. He seems
to have wavered between a desire to preserve the reputation of humanity,
which he has affected, and that of gratifying the real depravity of his
mind. Would one have expected, that a speech full of benevolent systems,
mild sentiments, and aversion from the effusion of human blood, was to
end in a vote for, and recommendation of, the immediate execution of his
sovereign?--But such a conduct is worthy of him, who has repaid the
benefits of his patron and friend [The Duke de la Rochefaucault.] by a
persecution which ended in his murder.

You will have seen, that the King made some trifling requests to be
granted after his decease, and that the Convention ordered him to be
told, that the nation, "always great, always just," accorded them in
part. Yet this just and magnanimous people refused him a preparation of
only three days, and allowed him but a few hours--suffered his remains to
be treated with the most scandalous indecency--and debated seriously,
whether or no the Queen should receive some little tokens of affection he
had left for her.

The King's enemies had so far succeeded in depreciating his personal
courage, that even his friends were apprehensive he might not sustain his
last moments with dignity. The event proves how much injustice has been
done him in this respect, as well as in many others. His behaviour was
that of a man who derived his fortitude from religion--it was that of
pious resignation, not ostentatious courage; it was marked by none of
those instances of levity and indifference which, at such a time, are
rather symptoms of distraction than resolution; he exhibited the
composure of an innocent mind, and the seriousness that became the
occasion; he seemed to be occupied in preparing for death, but not to
fear it.--I doubt not but the time will come, when those who have
sacrificed him may envy the last moments of Louis the Sixteenth!

That the King was not guilty of the principal charges brought against
him, has been proved indubitably--not altogether by the assertions of
those who favour him, but by the confession of his enemies. He was, for
example, accused of planning the insurrection of the tenth of August; yet
not a day passes that both parties in the Convention are not disputing
the priority of their efforts to dethrone him, and to erect a republic;
and they date their machinations long before the period on which they
attribute the first aggression to the King.--Mr. Sourdat, and several
other writers, have very ably demonstrated the falsehood of these
charges; but the circulation of such pamphlets was dangerous--of course,
secret and limited; while those which tended to deceive and prejudice the
people were dispersed with profusion, at the expence of the government.*

* Postscript of the Courier de l'Egalite, Sept. 29:

"The present minister (Rolland) takes every possible means in his
power to enlighten and inform the people in whatever concerns their
real interests. For this purpose he has caused to be printed and
distributed, in abundance, the accounts and papers relative to the
events of the tenth of August. We have yet at our office a small
number of these publications, which we have distributed to our
subscribers, and we still give them to any of our fellow-citizens
who have opportunities of circulating them."

I have seen one of these written in coarse language, and replete with
vulgar abuse, purposely calculated for the lower classes in the country,
who are more open to gross impositions than those of the same rank in
towns; yet I have no doubt, in my own mind, that all these artifices
would have proved unavailing, had the decision been left to the nation at
large: but they were intimidated, if not convinced; and the mandate of
the Convention, which forbids this sovereign people to exercise their
judgement, was obeyed with as much submission, and perhaps more
reluctance, than an edict of Louis the fourteenth.*

* The King appealed, by his counsel, to the People; but the
convention, by a decree, declared his appeal of no validity, and
forbade all persons to pay attention to it, under the severest

The French seem to have no energy but to destroy, and to resist nothing
but gentleness or infancy. They bend under a firm or oppressive
administration, but become restless and turbulent under a mild Prince or
a minority.

The fate of this unfortunate Monarch has made me reflect, with great
seriousness, on the conduct of our opposition-writers in England. The
literary banditti who now govern France began their operations by
ridiculing the King's private character--from ridicule they proceeded to
calumny, and from calumny to treason; and perhaps the first libel that
degraded him in the eyes of his subjects opened the path from the palace
to the scaffold.--I do not mean to attribute the same pernicious
intentions to the authors on your side the Channel, as I believe them,
for the most part, to be only mercenary, and that they would write
panegyrics as soon as satires, were they equally profitable. I know too,
that there is no danger of their producing revolutions in England--we do
not suffer our principles to be corrupted by a man because he has the art
of rhyming nothings into consequence, nor suffer another to overturn the
government because he is an orator. Yet, though these men may not be
very mischievous, they are very reprehensible; and, in a moment like the
present, contempt and neglect should supply the place of that punishment
against which our liberty of the press secures them.

It is not for a person no better informed than myself to pronounce on
systems of government--still less do I affect to have more enlarged
notions than the generality of mankind; but I may, without risking those
imputations, venture to say, I have no childish or irrational deference
for the persons of Kings. I know they are not, by nature, better than
other men, and a neglected or vicious education may often render them
worse. This does not, however, make me less respect the office. I
respect it as the means chosen by the people to preserve internal peace
and order--to banish corruption and petty tyrants ["And fly from petty
tyrants to the throne."--Goldsmith]--and give vigour to the execution of
the laws.

Regarded in this point of view, I cannot but lament the mode which has
lately prevailed of endeavouring to alienate the consideration due to our
King's public character, by personal ridicule. If an individual were
attacked in this manner, his house beset with spies, his conversation
with his family listened to, and the most trifling actions of his life
recorded, it would be deemed unfair and illiberal, and he who should
practice such meanness would be thought worthy of no punishment more
respectful than what might be inflicted by an oaken censor, or an
admonitory heel.--But it will be said, a King is not an individual, and
that such a habit, or such an amusement, is beneath the dignity of his
character. Yet would it be but consistent in those who labour to prove,
by the public acts of Kings, that they are less than men, not to exact,
that, in their private lives, they should be more.--The great prototype
of modern satyrists, Junius, does not allow that any credit should be
given a Monarch for his domestic virtues; is he then to be reduced to an
individual, only to scrutinize his foibles, and is his station to serve
only as the medium of their publicity? Are these literary miners to
penetrate the recesses of private life, only to bring to light the dross?
Do they analyse only to discover poisons? Such employments may be
congenial to their natures, but have little claim to public remuneration.
The merit of a detractor is not much superior to that of a flatterer; nor
is a Prince more likely to be amended by imputed follies, than by
undeserved panegyrics. If any man wished to represent his King
advantageously, it could not be done better than by remarking, that,
after all the watchings of assiduous necessity, and the laborious
researches of interested curiosity, it appears, that his private life
affords no other subjects of ridicule than, that he is temperate,
domestic, and oeconomical, and, as is natural to an active mind, wishes
to be informed of whatever happens not to be familiar to him. It were to
be desired that some of these accusations were applicable to those who
are so much scandalized at them: but they are not littlenesses--the
littleness is in him who condescends to report them; and I have often
wondered that men of genius should make a traffic of gleaning from the
refuse of anti-chambers, and retailing the anecdotes of pages and

You will perceive the kind of publications I allude to; and I hope the
situation of France, and the fate of its Monarch, may suggest to the
authors a more worthy employ of their talents, than that of degrading the
executive power in the eyes of the people.

Amiens, Feb. 25, 1793.

I told you, I believe, in a former letter, that the people of Amiens were
all aristocrates: they have, nevertheless, two extremely popular
qualifications--I mean filth and incivility. I am, however, far from
imputing either of them to the revolution. This grossness of behavior
has long existed under the palliating description of _"la franchise
Picarde,"_ ["Picardy frankness."] and the floors and stairs of many
houses will attest their preeminence in filth to be of a date much
anterior to the revolution.--If you purchase to the amount of an hundred
livres, there are many shopkeepers who will not send your purchases home;
and if the articles they show you do not answer your purpose, they are
mostly sullen, and often rude. No appearance of fatigue or infirmity
suggests to them the idea of offering you a seat; they contradict you
with impertinence, address you with freedom, and conclude with cheating
you if they can. It was certainly on this account that Sterne would not
agree to die at the inn at Amiens. He might, with equal justice, have
objected to any other house; and I am sure if he thought them an
unpleasant people to die amongst, he would have found them still worse to
live with.--My observation as to the civility of aristocrates does not
hold good here--indeed I only meant that those who ever had any, and were
aristocrates, still preserved it.

Amiens has always been a commercial town, inhabited by very few of the
higher noblesse; and the mere gentry of a French province are not very
much calculated to give a tone of softness and respect to those who
imitate them. You may, perhaps, be surprized that I should express
myself with little consideration for a class which, in England, is so
highly respectable: there gentlemen of merely independent circumstances
are not often distinguishable in their manners from those of superior
fortune or rank. But, in France, it is different: the inferior noblesse
are stiff, ceremonious, and ostentatious; while the higher ranks were
always polite to strangers, and affable to their dependents. When you
visit some of the former, you go through as many ceremonies as though you
were to be invested with an order, and rise up and sit down so many
times, that you return more fatigued than you would from a cricket match;
while with the latter you are just as much at your ease as is consistent
with good breeding and propriety, and a whole circle is never put in
commotion at the entrance and exit of every individual who makes part of
it. Any one not prepared for these formalities, and who, for the first
time, saw an assembly of twenty people all rising from their seats at the
entrance of a single beau, would suppose they were preparing for a dance,
and that the new comer was a musician. For my part I always find it an
oeconomy of strength (when the locality makes it practicable) to take
possession of a window, and continue standing in readiness until the hour
of visiting is over, and calm is established by the arrangement of the
card tables.--The revolution has not annihilated the difference of rank;
though it has effected the abolition of titles; and I counsel all who
have remains of the gout or inflexible joints, not to frequent the houses
of ladies whose husbands have been ennobled only by their offices, of
those whose genealogies are modern, or of the collaterals of ancient
families, whose claims are so far removed as to be doubtful. The society
of all these is very exigent, and to be avoided by the infirm or

I send you with this a little collection of airs which I think you will
find very agreeable. The French music has not, perhaps, all the
reputation it is entitled to. Rousseau has declared it to be nothing but
doleful psalmodies; Gray calls a French concert "Une tintamarre de
diable:" and the prejudices inspired by these great names are not easily
obliterated. We submit our judgement to theirs, even when our taste is
refractory.--The French composers seem to excel in marches, in lively
airs that abound in striking passages calculated for the popular taste,
and yet more particularly in those simple melodies they call romances:
they are often in a very charming and singular style, without being
either so delicate or affecting as the Italian. They have an expression
of plaintive tenderness, which makes one tranquil rather than melancholy;
and which, though it be more soothing than interesting, is very
delightful.--Yours, &c.

Amiens, 1793.

I have been to-day to take a last view of the convents: they are now
advertised for sale, and will probably soon be demolished. You know my
opinion is not, on the whole, favourable to these institutions, and that
I thought the decree which extinguishes them, but which secured to the
religious already profest the undisturbed possession of their habitations
during life, was both politic and humane. Yet I could not see the
present state of these buildings without pain--they are now inhabited by
volunteers, who are passing a novitiate of intemperance and idleness,
previous to their reception in the army; and those who recollect the
peace and order that once reigned within the walls of a monastery, cannot
but be stricken with the contrast. I felt both for the expelled and
present possessors, and, perhaps, gave a mental preference to the
superstition which founded such establishments, over the persecution that
destroys them.

The resigned and pious votaries, who once supposed themselves secure from
all the vicissitudes of fortune, and whose union seemed dissoluble only
by the common lot of mortality, are now many of them dispersed,
wandering, friendless, and miserable. The religion which they cherished
as a comfort, and practised as a duty, is now pursued as a crime; and it
is not yet certain that they will not have to choose between an
abjuration of their principles, and the relinquishment of the means of
existence.--The military occupiers offered nothing very alleviating to
such unpleasant reflections; and I beheld with as much regret the
collection of these scattered individuals, as the separation of those
whose habitations they fill. They are most of them extremely young,
taken from villages and the service of agriculture, and are going to risk
their lives in a cause detested perhaps by more than three parts of the
nation, and only to secure impunity to its oppressors.

It has usually been a maxim in all civilized states, that when the
general welfare necessitates some act of partial injustice, it shall be
done with the utmost consideration for the sufferer, and that the
required sacrifice of moral to political expediency shall be palliated,
as much as the circumstances will admit, by the manner of carrying it
into execution. But the French legislators, in this respect, as in most
others, truly original, disdain all imitation, and are rarely guided by
such confined motives. With them, private rights are frequently
violated, only to facilitate the means of public oppressions--and cruel
and iniquitous decrees are rendered still more so by the mode of
enforcing them.

I have met with no person who could conceive the necessity of expelling
the female religious from their convents. It was, however, done, and
that with a mixture of meanness and barbarity which at once excites
contempt and detestation. The ostensible, reasons were, that these
communities afforded an asylum to the superstitious, and that by their
entire suppression, a sale of the houses would enable the nation to
afford the religious a more liberal support than had been assigned them
by the Constituent Assembly. But they are shallow politicians who expect
to destroy superstition by persecuting those who practise it: and so far
from adding, as the decree insinuates, to the pensions of the nuns, they
have now subjected them to an oath which, to those at least whose
consciences are timid, will act as a prohibition to their receiving what
they were before entitled to.

The real intention of the legislature in thus entirely dispersing the
female religious, besides the general hatred of every thing connected
with religion, is, to possess itself of an additional resource in the
buildings and effects, and, as is imagined by some, to procure numerous
and convenient state prisons. But, I believe, the latter is only an
aristocratic apprehension, suggested by the appropriation of the convents
to this use in a few places, where the ancient prisons are full.--
Whatever purpose it is intended to answer, it has been effected in a way
disgraceful to any national body, except such a body as the Convention;
and, though it be easy to perceive the cruelty of such a measure, yet as,
perhaps, its injustice may not strike you so forcibly as if you had had
the same opportunities of investigating it as I have, I will endeavour to
explain, as well as I can, the circumstances that render it so peculiarly

I need not remind you, that no order is of very modern foundation, nor
that the present century has, in a great degree, exploded the fashion of
compounding for sins by endowing religious institutions. Thus,
necessarily, by the great change which has taken place in the expence of
living, many establishments that were poorly endowed must have become
unable to support themselves, but for the efforts of those who were
attached to them. It is true, that the rent of land has increased as its
produce became more valuable; but every one knows that the lands
dependent on religious houses have always been let on such moderate
terms, as by no means to bear a proportion to the necessities they were
intended to supply; and as the monastic vows have long ceased to be the
frequent choice of the rich, little increase has been made to the
original stock by the accession of new votaries:--yet, under all these
disadvantages, many societies have been able to rebuild their houses,
embellish their churches, purchase plate, &c. &c. The love of their
order, that spirit of oeconomy for which they are remarkable, and a
persevering industry, had their usual effects, and not only banished
poverty, but became a source of wealth. An indefatigable labour at such
works as could be profitably disposed of, the education of children, and
the admission of boarders, were the means of enriching a number of
convents, whose proper revenues would not have afforded them even a

But the fruits of active toil or voluntary privation, have been
confounded with those of expiatory bequest and mistaken devotion, and
have alike become the prey of a rapacious and unfeeling government. Many
communities are driven from habitations built absolutely with the produce
of their own labour. In some places they were refused even their beds
and linen; and the stock of wood, corn, &c. provided out of the savings
of their pensions, (understood to be at their own disposal,) have been
seized, and sold, without making them the smallest compensation.

Thus deprived of every thing, they are sent into the world with a
prohibition either to live several of them together, wear their habits,*
or practise their religion; yet their pensions** are too small for them
to live upon, except in society, or to pay the usual expence of boarding:
many of them have no other means of procuring secular dresses, and still
more will imagine themselves criminal in abstaining from the mode of
worship they have been taught to think salutary.

* Two religious, who boarded with a lady I had occasion to see
sometimes, told me, that they had been strictly enjoined not to
dress like each other in any way.

** The pensions are from about seventeen to twenty-five pounds
sterling per annum.--At the time I am writing, the necessaries of
life are increased in price nearly two-fifths of what they bore
formerly, and are daily becoming dearer. The Convention are not
always insensible to this--the pay of the foot soldier is more than

It is also to be remembered, that women of small fortune in France often
embraced the monastic life as a frugal retirement, and, by sinking the
whole they were possessed of in this way, they expected to secure a
certain provision, and to place themselves beyond the reach of future
vicissitudes: yet, though the sums paid on these occasions can be easily
ascertained, no indemnity has been made; and many will be obliged to
violate their principles, in order to receive a trifling pension, perhaps
much less than the interest of their money would have produced without
loss of the principal.

But the views of these legislating philosophers are too sublimely
extensive to take in the wrongs or sufferings of contemporary
individuals; and not being able to disguise, even to themselves, that
they create much misery at present, they promise incalculable advantages
to those who shall happen to be alive some centuries hence! Most of
these poor nuns are, however, of an age to preclude them from the hope of
enjoying this Millennium; and they would have been content en attendant
these glorious times, not to be deprived of the necessaries of life, or
marked out as objects of persecution.

The private distresses occasioned by the dissolution of the convents are
not the only consequences to be regretted--for a time, at least, the loss
must certainly be a public one. There will now be no means of
instruction for females, nor any refuge for those who are without friends
or relations: thousands of orphans must be thrown unprotected on the
world, and guardians, or single men, left with the care of children, have
no way to dispose of them properly. I do not contend that the education
of a convent is the best possible: yet are there many advantages
attending it; and I believe it will readily be granted, that an education
not quite perfect is better than no education at all. It would not be
very difficult to prove, that the systems of education, both in England
and France, are extremely defective; and if the characters of women are
generally better formed in one than the other, it is not owing to the
superiority of boarding-schools over convents, but to the difference of
our national manners, which tend to produce qualities not necessary, or
not valued, in France.

The most distinguished female excellencies in England are an attachment
to domestic life, an attention to its oeconomies, and a cultivated
understanding. Here, any thing like house-wifery is not expected but
from the lower classes, and reading or information is confined chiefly to
professed wits. Yet the qualities so much esteemed in England are not
the effect of education: few domestic accomplishments, and little useful
knowledge, are acquired at a boarding-school; but finally the national
character asserts its empire, and the female who has gone through a
course of frivolities from six to sixteen, who has been taught that the
first "human principle" should be to give an elegant tournure to her
person, after a few years' dissipation, becomes a good wife and mother,
and a rational companion.

In France, young women are kept in great seclusion: religion and oeconomy
form a principal part of conventual acquirements, and the natural vanity
of the sex is left to develope itself without the aid of authority, or
instillation by precept--yet, when released from this sober tuition,
manners take the ascendant here as in England, and a woman commences at
her marriage the aera of coquetry, idleness, freedom, and rouge.--We may
therefore, I think, venture to conclude, that the education of a
boarding-school is better calculated for the rich, that of a convent for
the middle classes and the poor; and, consequently, that the suppression
of this last in France will principally affect those to whom it was most
beneficial, and to whom the want of it will be most dangerous.

A committee of wise men are now forming a plan of public instruction,
which is to excel every thing ever adopted in any age or country; and we
may therefore hope that the defects which have hitherto prevailed, both
in theirs and our own, will be remedied. All we have to apprehend is,
that, amidst so many wise heads, more than one wise plan may be produced,
and a difficulty of choice keep the rising generation in a sort of
abeyance, so that they must remain sterile, or may become vitiated, while
it is determining in what manner they shall be cultivated.

It is almost a phrase to say, the resources of France are wonderful, and
this is no less true than generally admitted. Whatever be the want or
loss, it is no sooner known than supplied, and the imagination of the
legislature seems to become fertile in proportion to the exigence of the
moment.--I was in some pain at the disgrace of Mirabeau, lest this new
kind of retrospective judgement should depopulate the Pantheon of the few
divinities that remained; more especially when I considered that
Voltaire, notwithstanding his merits as an enemy to revelation, had been
already accused of aristocracy, and even Rousseau himself might not be
found impeccable. His Contrat Social might not, perhaps, in the eyes of
a committee of philosophical Rhadmanthus's, atone for his occasional
admiration of christianity: and thus some crime, either of church or
state, disfranchise the whole race of immortals, and their fame scarcely
outlast the dispute about their earthly remains.*

* Alluding to the disputes between the Convention and the person who
claimed the exclusive right to the remains of Rousseau.

My concern, on this account, was the more justifiable, because the great
fallibility which prevailed among the patriots, and the very delicate
state of the reputation of those who retained their political existence,
afforded no hope that they could ever fill the vacancies in the
Pantheon.--But my fears were very superfluous--France will never want
subjects for an apotheosis, and if one divinity be dethroned, "another
and another still succeeds," all equally worthy as long as they continue
in fashion.--The phrenzy of despair has supplied a successor to Mirabeau,
in Le Pelletier. [De St. Fargeau.] The latter had hitherto been little
heard of, but his death offered an occasion for exciting the people too
favourable to be neglected: his patriotism and his virtues immediately
increased in a ratio to the use which might be made of them;* a dying
speech proper for the purpose was composed, and it was decreed
unanimously, that he should be installed in all the rights, privileges,
and immortalities of the degraded Riquetti.--

* At the first intelligence of his death, a member of the
Convention, who was with him, and had not yet had time to study a
speech, confessed his last words to have been, "Jai froid."--"I am
cold." This, however, would nave made no figure on the banners of a
funeral procession; and Le Pelletier was made to die, like the hero
of a tragedy, uttering blank verse.

The funeral that preceded these divine awards was a farce, which tended
more to provoke a massacre of the living, than to honour the dead; and
the Convention, who vowed to sacrifice their animosities on his tomb, do
so little credit to the conciliating influence of St. Fargeau's virtues,
that they now dispute with more acrimony than ever.

The departments, who begin to be extremely submissive to Paris, thought
it incumbent on them to imitate this ceremony; but as it was rather an
act of fear than of patriotism, it was performed here with so much
oeconomy, and so little inclination, that the whole was cold and paltry.
--An altar was erected on the great market-place, and so little were the
people affected by the catastrophe of a patriot whom they were informed
had sacrificed* his life in their cause, that the only part of the
business which seemed to interest them was the extravagant gestures of a
woman in a dirty white dress, hired to act the part of a "pleureuse," or
mourner, and whose sorrow appeared to divert them infinitely.--

* There is every reason to believe that Le Pelletier was not singled
out for his patriotism.--It is said, and with much appearance of
probability, that he had promised PARIS, with whom he had been
intimate, not to vote for the death of the King; and, on his
breaking his word, PARIS, who seems to have not been perfectly in
his senses, assassinated him.--PARIS had been in the Garde du Corps,
and, like most of his brethren, was strongly attached to the King's
person. Rage and despair prompted him to the commission of an act,
which can never be excused, however the perpetrator may imagine
himself the mere instrument of Divine vengeance.--Notwithstanding
the most vigilant research, he escaped for some time, and wandered
as far as Forges d'Eaux, a little town in Normandy. At the inn
where he lodged, the extravagance of his manner giving suspicions
that he was insane, the municipality were applied to, to secure him.
An officer entered his room while he was in bed, and intimated the
purpose he was come for. PARIS affected to comply, and, turning,
drew a pistol from under the clothes, and shot himself.--Among the
papers found upon him were some affecting lines, expressive of his
contempt for life, and adding, that the influence of his example was
not to be dreaded, since he left none behind him that deserved the
name of Frenchmen!--_"Qu'on n'inquiete personne! personne n'a ete
mon complice dans la mort heureuse de Scelerat St. Fargeau. Si Je
ne l'eusse pas rencontre sous ma main, Je purgeois la France du
regicide, du parricide, du patricide D'Orleans. Qu'on n'inquiete
personne. Tous les Francois sont des laches auxquelles Je dis--

"Peuple, dont les forfaits jettent partout l'effroi,
"Avec calme et plaisir J'abandonne la vie
"Ce n'est que par la mort qu'on peut fuir l'infamie,
"Qu'imprime sur nos fronts le sang de notre Roi."_

"Let no man be molested on my account: I had no accomplice in the
fortunate death of the miscreant St. Fargeau. If he had not fallen
in my way, I should have purged France of the regicide, parricide,
patricide D'Orleans. Let no man be molested. All the French are
cowards, to whom I say--'People, whose crimes inspire universal
horror, I quit life with tranquility and pleasure. By death alone
can we fly from that infamy which the blood of our King has marked
upon our foreheads!'"--This paper was entitled "My Brevet of

It will ever be so where the people are not left to consult their own
feelings. The mandate that orders them to assemble may be obeyed, but
"that which passeth show" is not to be enforced. It is a limit
prescribed by Nature herself to authority, and such is the aversion of
the human mind from dictature and restraint, that here an official
rejoicing is often more serious than these political exactions of regret
levied in favour of the dead.--Yours, &c. &c.

March 23, 1793.

The partizans of the French in England alledge, that the revolution, by
giving them a government founded on principles of moderation and
rectitude, will be advantageous to all Europe, and more especially to
Great Britain, which has so often suffered by wars, the fruit of their
intrigues.--This reasoning would be unanswerable could the character of
the people be changed with the form of their government: but, I believe,
whoever examines its administration, whether as it relates to foreign
powers or internal policy, will find that the same spirit of intrigue,
fraud, deception, and want of faith, which dictated in the cabinet of
Mazarine or Louvois, has been transfused, with the addition of meanness
and ignorance,* into a Constitutional Ministry, or the Republican
Executive Council.

* The Executive Council is composed of men who, if ever they were
well-intentioned, must be totally unfit for the government of an
extensive republic. Monge, the Minister of the Marine, is a
professor of geometry; Garat, Minister of Justice, a gazette writer;
Le Brun, Minister of Foreign Affairs, ditto; and Pache, Minister of
the Interior, a private tutor.--Whoever reads the debates of the
Convention will find few indications of real talents, and much
pedantry and ignorance. For example, Anacharsis Cloots, who is a
member of the Committee of Public Instruction, and who one should,
of course, expect not to be more ignorant than his colleagues, has
lately advised them to distress the enemy by invading Scotland,
which he calls the granary of England.

France had not yet determined on the articles of her future political
creed, when agents were dispatched to make proselytes in England, and, in
proportion as she assumed a more popular form of government, all the
qualities which have ever marked her as the disturber of mankind seem to
have acquired new force. Every where the ambassadors of the republic are
accused of attempts to excite revolt and discontent, and England* is now
forced into a war because she could not be persuaded to an insurrection.

* For some time previous to the war, all the French prints and even
members of the Convention, in their debates, announced England to be
on the point of an insurrection. The intrigues of Chauvelin, their
ambassador, to verify this prediction, are well known. Brissot, Le
Brun, &c. who have since been executed, were particularly charged by
the adverse party with provoking the war with England. Robespierre,
and those who succeeded, were not so desirous of involving us in a
foreign war, and their humane efforts were directed merely to excite
a civil one.--The third article of accusation against Rolland is,
having sent twelve millions of livres to England, to assist in
procuring a declaration of war.

Perhaps it may be said, that the French have taken this part only for
their own security, and to procure adherents to the common cause; but
this is all I contend for--that the politics of the old government
actuate the new, and that they have not, in abolishing courts and
royalty, abolished the perfidious system of endeavouring to benefit
themselves, by creating distress and dissention among their neighbours.--
Louvois supplied the Protestants in the Low Countries with money, while
he persecuted them in France. The agents of the republic, more
oeconomical, yet directed by the same motives, eke out corruption by
precepts of sedition, and arm the leaders of revolt with the rights of
man; but, forgetting the maxim that charity should begin at home, in
their zeal for the freedom of other countries, they leave no portion of
it for their own!

Louis the Fourteenth over-ran Holland and the Palatinate to plant the
white flag, and lay the inhabitants under contribution--the republic send
an army to plant the tree of liberty, levy a _don patriotique,_
[Patriotic gift.] and place garrisons in the towns, in order to preserve
their freedom.--Kings have violated treaties from the desire of conquest
--these virtuous republicans do it from the desire of plunder; and,
previous to opening the Scheldt, the invasion of Holland, was proposed as
a means of paying the expences of the war. I have never heard that even
the most ambitious Potentates ever pretended to extend their subjugation
beyond the persons and property of the conquered; but these militant
dogmatists claim an empire even over opinions, and insist that no people
can be free or happy unless they regulate their ideas of freedom and
happiness by the variable standard of the Jacobin club. Far from being
of Hudibras's philosophy,* they seem to think the mind as tangible as the
body, and that, with the assistance of an army, they may as soon lay one
"by the heels" as the other.

* "Quoth he, one half of man, his mind,
"Is, sui juris, unconfin'd,
"And ne'er can be laid by the heels,
"Whate'er the other moiety feels."


Now this I conceive to be the worst of all tyrannies, nor have I seen it
exceeded on the French theatre, though, within the last year, the
imagination of their poets has been peculiarly ingenious and inventive on
this subject.--It is absurd to suppose this vain and overbearing
disposition will cease when the French government is settled. The
intrigues of the popular party began in England the very moment they
attained power, and long before there was any reason to suspect that the
English would deviate from their plan of neutrality. If, then, the
French cannot restrain this mischievous spirit while their own affairs
are sufficient to occupy their utmost attention, it is natural to
conclude, that, should they once become established, leisure and peace
will make them dangerous to the tranquillity of all Europe. Other
governments may be improved by time, but republics always degenerate; and
if that which is in its original state of perfection exhibit already the
maturity of vice, one cannot, without being more credulous than
reasonable, hope any thing better for the future than what we have
experienced from the past.--It is, indeed, unnecessary to detain you
longer on this subject. You must, ere now, be perfectly convinced how
far the revolutionary systems of France are favourable to the peace and
happiness of other countries. I will only add a few details which may
assist you in judging of what advantage they have been to the French
themselves, and whether, in changing the form of their government, they
have amended its principles; or if, in "conquering liberty," (as they
express it,) they have really become free.

The situation of France has altered much within the last two months: the
seat of power is less fluctuating and the exercise of it more absolute--
arbitrary measures are no longer incidental, but systematic--and a
regular connection of dependent tyranny is established, beginning with
the Jacobin clubs, and ending with the committees of the sections. A
simple decree for instance, has put all the men in the republic,
(unmarried and without children,) from eighteen to forty-five at the
requisition of the Minister of War. A levy of three hundred thousand is
to take place immediately: each department is responsible for the whole
of a certain number to the Convention, the districts are answerable for
their quota to the departments, the municipalities to the district, and
the diligence of the whole is animated by itinerant members of the
legislature, entrusted with the disposal of an armed force. The latter
circumstance may seem to you incredible; yet is it nevertheless true,
that most of the departments are under the jurisdiction of these
sovereigns, whose authority is nearly unlimited. We have, at this
moment, two Deputies in the town, who arrest and imprison at their
pleasure. One-and-twenty inhabitants of Amiens were seized a few nights
ago, without any specific charge having been exhibited against them, and
are still in confinement. The gates of the town are shut, and no one is
permitted to pass or repass without an order from the municipality; and
the observance of this is exacted even of those who reside in the
suburbs. Farmers and country people, who are on horseback, are obliged
to have the features and complexion of their horses minuted on the
passport with their own. Every person whom it is found convenient to
call suspicious, is deprived of his arms; and private houses are
disturbed during the night, (in opposition to a positive law,) under
pretext of searching for refractory priests.--These regulations are not
peculiar to this department, and you must understand them as conveying a
general idea of what passes in every part of France.--I have yet to add,
that letters are opened with impunity--that immense sums of assignats are
created at the will of the Convention--that no one is excused mounting
guard in person--and that all housekeepers, and even lodgers, are
burthened with the quartering of troops, sometimes as many as eight or
ten, for weeks together.

You may now, I think, form a tolerable idea of the liberty that has
accrued to the French from the revolution, the dethronement of the King,
and the establishment of a republic. But, though the French suffer this
despotism without daring to murmur openly, many a significant shrug and
doleful whisper pass in secret, and this political discontent has even
its appropriate language, which, though not very explicit, is perfectly
understood.--Thus when you hear one man say to another, _"Ah, mon Dieu,
on est bien malheureux dans ce moment ici;"_ or, _"Nous sommes dans une
position tres critique--Je voudrois bien voir la fin de tout cela;"_
["God knows, we are very miserable at present--we are in a very critical
situation--I should like to see an end of all this."] you may be sure he
languishes for the restoration of the monarchy, and hopes with equal
fervor, that he may live to see the Convention hanged. In these sort of
conferences, however, evaporates all their courage. They own their
country is undone, that they are governed by a set of brigands, go home
and hide any set of valuables they have not already secreted, and receive
with obsequious complaisance the next visite domiciliaire.

The mass of the people, with as little energy, have more obstinacy, and
are, of course, not quite so tractable. But, though they grumble and
procrastinate, they do not resist; and their delays and demurs usually
terminate in implicit submission.

The Deputy-commissioners, whom I have mentioned above, have been at
Amiens some time, in order to promote the levying of recruits. On
Sundays and holidays they summoned the inhabitants to attend at the
cathedral, where they harangued them on the subject, called for vengeance
on the coalesced despots, expatiated on the love of glory, and insisted
on the pleasure of dying for one's country: while the people listened
with vacant attention, amused themselves with the paintings, or adjourned
in small committees to discuss the hardship of being obliged to fight
without inclination.--Thus time elapsed, the military orations produced
no effect, and no troops were raised: no one would enlist voluntarily,
and all refused to settle it by lot, because, as they wisely observed,
the lot must fall on somebody. Yet, notwithstanding the objection, the
matter was at length decided by this last method. The decision had no
sooner taken place, than another difficulty ensued--those who escaped
acknowledged it was the best way that could be devised; but those who
were destined to the frontiers refused to go. Various altercations, and
excuses, and references, were the consequence; yet, after all this
murmuring and evasion, the presence of the Commissioners and a few
dragoons have arranged the business very pacifically; many are already
gone, and the rest will (if the dragoons continue here) soon follow.

This, I assure you, is a just statement of the account between the
Convention and the People: every thing is effected by fear--nothing by
attachment; and the one is obeyed only because the other want courage to
resist.--Yours, &c.

Rouen, March 31, 1793.

Rouen, like most of the great towns in France, is what is called
decidedly aristocratic; that is, the rich are discontented because they
are without security, and the poor because they want bread. But these
complaints are not peculiar to large places; the causes of them equally
exist in the smallest village, and the only difference which fixes the
imputation of aristocracy on one more than the other, is, daring to
murmur, or submitting in silence.

I must here remark to you, that the term aristocrate has much varied from
its former signification. A year ago, aristocrate implied one who was an
advocate for the privileges of the nobility, and a partizan of the
ancient government--at present a man is an aristocrate for entertaining
exactly the same principles which at that time constituted a patriot;
and, I believe, the computation is moderate, when I say, that more than
three parts of the nation are aristocrates. The rich, who apprehend a
violation of their property, are aristocrates--the merchants, who regret
the stagnation of commerce, and distrust the credit of the assignats, are
aristocrates--the small retailers, who are pillaged for not selling
cheaper than they buy, and who find these outrages rather encouraged than
repressed, are aristocrates--and even the poor, who murmur at the price
of bread, and the numerous levies for the army, are, occasionally,

Besides all these, there are likewise various classes of moral
aristocrates--such as the humane, who are averse from massacres and
oppression--those who regret the loss of civil liberty--the devout, who
tremble at the contempt for religion--the vain, who are mortified at the
national degradation--and authors, who sigh for the freedom of the
press.--When you consider this multiplicity of symptomatic indications,
you will not be surprized that such numbers are pronounced in a state of
disease; but our republican physicians will soon generalize these various
species of aristocracy under the single description of all who have any
thing to lose, and every one will be deemed plethoric who is not in a
consumption. The people themselves who observe, though they do not
reason, begin to have an idea that property exposes the safety of the
owner and that the legislature is less inexorable when guilt is
unproductive, than when the conviction of a criminal comprehends the
forfeiture of an estate.--A poor tradesman was lamenting to me yesterday,
that he had neglected an offer of going to live in England; and when I
told him I thought he was very fortunate in having done so, as he would
have been declared an emigrant, he replied, laughing, _"Moi emigre qui
n'ai pas un sol:"_ ["I am emigrant, who am not worth a halfpenny!"]--No,
no; they don't make emigrants of those who are worth nothing. And this
was not said with any intended irreverence to the Convention, but with
the simplicity which really conceived the wealth of the emigrants to be
the cause of the severity exercised against them.

The commercial and political evils attending a vast circulation of
assignats have been often discussed, but I have never yet known the
matter considered in what is, perhaps, its most serious point of view--I
mean its influence on the habits and morals of the people. Wherever I
go, especially in large towns like this, the mischief is evident, and, I
fear, irremediable. That oeconomy, which was one of the most valuable
characteristics of the French, is now comparatively disregarded. The
people who receive what they earn in a currency they hold in contempt,
are more anxious to spend than to save; and those who formerly hoarded
six liards or twelve sols pieces with great care, would think it folly to
hoard an assignat, whatever its nominal value. Hence the lower class of
females dissipate their wages on useless finery; men frequent
public-houses, and game for larger sums than before; little shopkeepers,
instead of amassing their profits, become more luxurious in their table:
public places are always full; and those who used, in a dress becoming
their station, to occupy the "parquet" or "parterre," now, decorated
with paste, pins, gauze, and galloon, fill the boxes:--and all this
destructive prodigality is excused to others and themselves _"par ce que
ce n'est que du papier."_ [Because it is only paper.]--It is vain to
persuade them to oeconomize what they think a few weeks may render
valueless; and such is the evil of a circulation so totally discredited,
that profusion assumes the merit of precaution, extravagance the plea of
necessity, and those who were not lavish by habit become so through
their eagerness to part with their paper. The buried gold and silver
will again be brought forth, and the merchant and the politician forget
the mischief of the assignats. But what can compensate for the injury
done to the people? What is to restore their ancient frugality, or
banish their acquired wants? It is not to be expected that the return
of specie will diminish the inclination for luxury, or that the human
mind can be regulated by the national finance; on the contrary, it is
rather to be feared, that habits of expence which owe their introduction
to the paper will remain when the paper is annihilated; that, though
money may become more scarce, the propensities of which it supplies the
indulgence will not be less forcible, and that those who have no other
resources for their accustomed gratifications will but too often find
one in the sacrifice of their integrity.--Thus, the corruption of
manners will be succeeded by the corruption of morals, and the
dishonesty of one sex, with the licentiousness of the other, produce
consequences much worse than any imagined by the abstracted calculations
of the politician, or the selfish ones of the merchant. Age will be
often without solace, sickness without alleviation, and infancy without
support; because some would not amass for themselves, nor others for
their children, the profits of their labour in a representative sign of
uncertain value.

I do not pretend to assert that these are the natural effects of a paper
circulation--doubtless, when supported by high credit, and an extensive
commerce, it must have many advantages; but this was not the case in
France--the measure was adopted in a moment of revolution, and when the
credit of the country, never very considerable, was precarious and
degraded--It did not flow from the exuberance of commerce, but the
artifices of party--it never presumed, for a moment, on the confidence of
the people--its reception was forced, and its emission too profuse not to
be alarming.--I know it may be answered, that the assignats do not depend
upon an imaginary appreciation, but really represent a large mass of
national wealth, particularly in the domains of the clergy: yet, perhaps,
it is this very circumstance which has tended most to discredit them.
Had their credit rested only on the solvency of the nation, though they
had not been greatly coveted, still they would have been less
distributed; people would not have apprehended their abolition on a
change of government, nor that the systems adopted by one party might be
reversed by another. Indeed we may add, that an experiment of this kind
does not begin auspiciously when grounded on confiscation and seizures,
which it is probable more than half the French considered as sacrilege
and robbery; nor could they be very anxious to possess a species of
wealth which they made it a motive of conscience to hope would never be
of any value.--But if the original creation of assignats were
objectionable, the subsequent creations cannot but augment the evil. I
have already described to you the effects visible at present, and those
to be apprehended in future--others may result from the new inundation,
[1200 millions--50 millions sterling.] which it is not possible to
conjecture; but if the mischiefs should be real, in proportion as a part
of the wealth which this paper is said to represent is imaginary, their
extent cannot easily be exaggerated. Perhaps you will be of this
opinion, when you recollect that one of the funds which form the security
of this vast sum is the gratitude of the Flemings for their liberty; and
if this reimbursement be to be made according to the specimen the French
army have experienced in their retreat, I doubt much of the convention
will be disposed to advance any farther claims on it; for, it seems, the
inhabitants of the Low Countries have been so little sensible of the
benefits bestowed on them, that even the peasants seize on any weapons
nearest hand, and drub and pursue the retrograding armies as they would
wild beasts; and though, as Dumouriez observes in one of his dispatches,
our revolution is intended to favour the country people, _"c'est
cependant les gens de campagne qui s'arment contre nous, et le tocsin
sonne de toutes parts;"_ ["It is, however, the country people who take up
arms against us, and the alarm is sounded from all quarters."] so that
the French will, in fact, have created a public debt of so singular a
nature, that every one will avoid as much as possible making any demand
of the capital.

I have already been more diffuse than I intended on the subject of
finance; but I beg you to observe, that I do not affect to calculate, or
speculate, and that I reason only from facts which are daily within my
notice, and which, as tending to operate on the morals of the people, are
naturally included in the plan I proposed to myself.

I have been here but a few days, and intend returning to-morrow. I left
Mrs. D____ very little better, and the disaffection of Dumouriez, which I
just now learn, may oblige us to remove to some place not on the route to
Paris.--Every one looks alert and important, and a physiognomist may
perceive that regret is not the prevailing sentiment--

"We now begin to speak in tropes,
"And, by our fears, express our hopes."

The Jacobins are said to be apprehensive, which augurs well; for,
certainly, next to the happiness of good people, one desires the
punishment of the bad.

Amiens, April 7, 1793.

If the sentiments of the people towards their present government had been
problematical before, the visible effect of Dumouriez' conduct would
afford an ample solution of the problem. That indifference about public
affairs which the prospect of an established despotism had begun to
create has vanished--all is hope and expectation--the doors of those who
retail the newspapers are assailed by people too impatient to read them--
each with his gazette in his hand listens eagerly to the verbal
circulation, and then holds a secret conference with his neighbour, and
calculates how long it may be before Dumouriez can reach Paris. A
fortnight ago the name of Dumouriez was not uttered but in a tone of
harshness and contempt, and, if ever it excited any thing like
complacency, it was when he announced defeats and losses. Now he is
spoken of with a significant modulation of voice, it is discovered that
he has great talents, and his popularity with the army is descanted upon
with a mysterious air of suppressed satisfaction.--Those who were
extremely apprehensive lest part of the General's troops should be driven
this way by the successes of the enemy, seem to talk with perfect
composure of their taking the same route to attack the capital; while
others, who would have been unwilling to receive either Dumouriez or his
army as peaceful fugitives, will be "nothing loath" to admit them as
conquerors. From all I can learn, these dispositions are very general,
and, indeed, the actual tyranny is so great, and the perspective so
alarming, that any means of deliverance must be acceptable. But whatever
may be the event, though I cannot be personally interested, if I thought
Dumouriez really proposed to establish a good government, humanity would
render one anxious for his success; for it is not to be disguised, that
France is at this moment (as the General himself expressed it) under the
joint dominion of _"imbecilles"_ and _"brigands."_ [Ideots and robbers.]

It is possible, that at this moment the whole army is disaffected, and
that the fortified towns are prepared to surrender. It is also certain,
that Brittany is in revolt, and that many other departments are little
short of it; yet you will not very easily conceive what may have occupied
the Convention during part of this important crisis--nothing less than
inventing a dress for their Commissioners! But, as Sterne says, "it is
the spirit of the nation;" and I recollect no circumstance during the
whole progress of the revolution (however serious) that has not been
mixed with frivolities of this kind.

I know not what effect this new costume may produce on the rebels or the
enemy, but I confess it appears to me more ludicrous than formidable,
especially when a representative happens to be of the shape and features
of the one we have here. Saladin, Deputy for this department, and an
advocate of the town of Amiens, has already invested himself with this
armour of inviolability; "strange figure in such strange habiliments,"
that one is tempted to forget that Baratraria and the government of
Sancho are the creation of fancy. Imagine to yourself a short fat man,
of sallow complexion and small eyes, with a sash of white, red, and blue
round his waist, a black belt with a sword suspended across his
shoulders, and a round hat turned up before, with three feathers of the
national colours: "even such a man" is our representative, and exercises
a more despotic authority than most Princes in Europe.--He is accompanied
by another Deputy, who was what is called Pere de la Oratoire before the
revolution--that is, in a station nearly approaching to that of an
under-master at our public schools; only that the seminaries to which
these were attached being very numerous, those employed in them were
little considered. They wore the habit, and were subject to the same
restrictions, as the Clergy, but were at liberty to quit the profession
and marry, if they chose.--I have been more particular in describing
this class of men, because they have every where taken an active and
successful part in perverting and misleading the people: they are in the
clubs, or the municipalities, in the Convention, and in all elective
administrations, and have been in most places remarkable for their
sedition and violence.

Several reasons may be assigned for the influence and conduct of men
whose situation and habits, on a first view, seem to oppose both. In the
first ardour of reform it was determined, that all the ancient modes of
education should be abolished; small temporary pensions were allotted to
the Professors of Colleges, and their admission to the exercise of
similar functions in the intended new system was left to future decision.
From this time the disbanded oratorians, who knew it would be vain to
resist popular authority, endeavoured to share in it; or, at least, by
becoming zealous partizans of the revolution, to establish their claims
to any offices or emoluments which might be substituted for those they
had been deprived of. They enrolled themselves with the Jacobins,
courted the populace, and, by the talent of pronouncing Roman names with
emphasis, and the study of rhetorical attitudes, they became important to
associates who were ignorant, or necessary to those who were designing.

The little information generally possessed by the middle classes of life
in France, is also another cause of the comparative importance of those
whose professions had, in this respect, raised them something above the
common level. People of condition, liberally educated, have
unfortunately abandoned public affairs for some time; so that the
incapacity of some, and the pride or despondency of others, have, in a
manner, left the nation to the guidance of pedants, incendiaries, and
adventurers. Perhaps also the animosity with which the description of
men I allude to pursued every thing attached to the ancient government,
may, in some degree, have proceeded from a desire of revenge and
retaliation. They were not, it must be confessed, treated formerly with
the regard due to persons whose profession was in itself useful and
respectable; and the wounds of vanity are not easily cured, nor the
vindictiveness of little minds easily satisfied.

From the conduct and popular influence of these Peres de l'Oratoire, some
truths may be deduced not altogether useless even to a country not liable
to such violent reforms. It affords an example of the danger arising
from those sudden and arbitrary innovations, which, by depriving any part
of the community of their usual means of living, and substituting no
other, tempt them to indemnify themselves by preying, in different ways,
on their fellow-citizens.--The daring and ignorant often become
depredators of private property; while those who have more talents, and
less courage, endeavour to succeed by the artifices which conciliate
public favour. I am not certain whether the latter are not to be most
dreaded of the two, for those who make a trade of the confidence of the
people seldom fail to corrupt them--they find it more profitable to
flatter their passions than to enlighten their understandings; and a
demagogue of this kind, who obtains an office by exciting one popular
insurrection, will make no scruple of maintaining himself in it by
another. An inferrence may likewise be drawn of the great necessity of
cultivating such a degree of useful knowledge in the middle order of
society, as may not only prevent their being deceived by interested
adventurers themselves, but enable them to instruct the people in their
true interests, and rescue them from becoming the instruments, and
finally the victims, of fraud and imposture.--The insult and oppression
which the nobility frequently experience from those who have been
promoted by the revolution, will, I trust, be a useful lesson in future
to the great, who may be inclined to arrogate too much from adventitious
distinctions, to forget that the earth we tread upon may one day
overwhelm us, and that the meanest of mankind may do us an injury which
it is not in the power even of the most exalted to shield us from.

The inquisition begins to grow so strict, that I have thought it
necessary to-day to bury a translation of Burke.--In times of ignorance
and barbarity, it was criminal to read the bible, and our English author
is prohibited for a similar reason--that is, to conceal from the people
the errors of those who direct them: and, indeed, Mr. Burke has written
some truths, which it is of much more importance for the Convention to
conceal, than it could be to the Catholic priests to monopolize the
divine writings.--As far as it was possible, Mr. Burke has shown himself
a prophet: if he has not been completely so, it was because he had a
benevolent heart, and is the native of a free country. By the one, he
was prevented from imagining the cruelties which the French have
committed; by the other, the extreme despotism which they endure.

April 20, 1793.

Before these halcyon days of freedom, the supremacy of Paris was little
felt in the provinces, except in dictating a new fashion in dress, an
improvement in the art of cookery, or the invention of a minuet. At
present our imitations of the capital are something more serious; and if
our obedience be not quite so voluntary, it is much more implicit.
Instead of receiving fashions from the Court, we take them now from the
_dames des balles,_ [Market-women.] and the municipality; and it must be
allowed, that the imaginations of our new sovereigns much exceed those of
the old in force and originality.

The mode of pillaging the shops, for instance, was first devised by the
Parisian ladies, and has lately been adopted with great success in the
departments; the visite domiciliaire, also, which I look upon as a most
ingenious effort of fancy, is an emanation from the commune of Paris, and
has had an universal run.--But it would be vain to attempt enumerating
all the obligations of this kind which we owe to the indulgence of that
virtuous city: our last importation, however, is of so singular a nature,
that, were we not daily assured all the liberty in the world centers in
Paris, I should be doubtful as to its tendency. It has lately been
decreed, that every house in the republic shall have fixed on the outside
of the door, in legible characters, the name, age, birth-place, and
profession of its inhabitants. Not the poorest cottager, nor those who
are too old or too young for action, nor even unmarried ladies, are
exempt from thus proclaiming the abstract of their history to passers-by.
--The reigning party judge very wisely, that all those who are not
already their enemies may become so, and that those who are unable to
take a part themselves may excite others: but, whatever may be the
intention of this measure, it is impossible to conceive any thing which
could better serve the purposes of an arbitrary government; it places
every individual in the republic within the immediate reach of informers
and spies--it points out those who are of an age to serve in the army--
those who have sought refuge in one department from the persecutions of
another--and, in short, whether a victim is pursued by the denunciation
of private malice, or political suspicion, it renders escape almost

We have had two domiciliary visits within the last fortnight--one to
search for arms, the other under pretext of ascertaining the number of
troops each house is capable of lodging. But this was only the pretext,
because the municipalities always quarter troops as they think proper,
without considering whether you have room or not; and the real object of
this inquisition was to observe if the inhabitants answered to the lists
placed on the doors.--Mrs. D____ was ill in bed, but you must not imagine
such a circumstance deterred these gallant republicans from entering her
room with an armed force, to calculate how many soldiers might be lodged
in the bedchamber of a sick female! The French, indeed, had never, in my
remembrance, any pretensions to delicacy, or even decency, and they are
certainly not improved in these respects by the revolution.

It is curious in walking the streets, to observe the devices of the
several classes of aristocracy; for it is not to be disguised, that since
the hope from Dumouriez has vanished, though the disgust of the people
may be increased, their terror is also greater than ever, and the
departments near Paris have no resource but silent submission. Every
one, therefore, obeys the letter of the decrees with the diligence of
fear, while they elude the spirit of them with all the ingenuity of
hatred. The rich, for example, who cannot entirely divest themselves of
their remaining hauteur, exhibit a sullen compliance on a small piece of
paper, written in a small hand, and placed at the very extreme of the
height allowed by the law. Some fix their bills so as to be half covered
by a shutter; others fasten them only with wafers, so that the wind
detaching one or two corners, makes it impossible to read the rest.*

* This contrivance became so common, that an article was obliged to
be added to the decree, importing, that whenever the papers were
damaged or effaced by the weather, or deranged by the wind, the
inhabitants should replace them, under a penalty.

Many who have courts or passages to their houses, put their names on the
half of a gate which they leave open, so that the writing is not
perceptible but to those who enter. But those who are most afraid, or
most decidedly aristocrates, subjoin to their registers, "All good
republicans:" or, _"Vive la republique, une et indivisible."_ ["The
republic, one and indivisible for ever!"] Some likewise, who are in
public offices, or shopkeepers who are very timid, and afraid of pillage,
or are ripe for a counter-revolution, have a sheet half the size of the
door, decorated with red caps, tri-coloured ribbons, and flaming
sentences ending in "Death or Liberty!"

If, however, the French government confined itself to these petty acts of
despotism, I would endeavour to be reconciled to it; but I really begin
to have serious apprehensions, not so much for our safety as our
tranquillity, and if I considered only myself, I should not hesitate to
return to England. Mrs. D____ is too ill to travel far at present, and
her dread of crossing the sea makes her less disposed to think our
situation here hazardous or ineligible. Mr. D____, too, who, without
being a republican or a partizan of the present system, has always been a
friend to the first revolution, is unwilling to believe the Convention so
bad as there is every reason to suppose it. I therefore let my judgement
yield to my friendship, and, as I cannot prevail on them to depart, the
danger which may attend our remaining is an additional reason for my not
quitting them.

The national perfidy which has always distinguished France among the
other countries of Europe, seems now not to be more a diplomatic
principle, than a rule of domestic government. It is so extended and
generalized, that an individual is as much liable to be deceived and
betrayed by confiding in a decree, as a foreign power would be by relying
on the faith of a treaty.--An hundred and twenty priests, above sixty
years of age, who had not taken the oaths, but who were allowed to remain
by the same law that banished those who were younger, have been lately
arrested, and are confined together in a house which was once a college.
The people did not behold this act of cruelty with indifference, but,
awed by an armed force, and the presence of the Commissioners of the
Convention, they could only follow the priests to their prison with
silent regret and internal horror. They, however, venture even now to
mark their attachment, by taking all opportunities of seeing them, and
supplying them with necessaries, which it is not very difficult to do, as
they are guarded by the Bourgeois, who are generally inclined to favour
them. I asked a woman to-day if she still contrived to have access to
the priests, and she replied, _"Ah, oui, il y a encore de la facilite,
par ce que l'on ne trouve pas des gardes ici qui ne sont pas pour eux."_*

* "Yes, yes, we still contive it, because there are no guards to be
found here who don't befriend them."

Thus, even the most minute and best organized tyranny may be eluded; and,
indeed, if all the agents of this government acted in the spirit of its
decrees, it would be insupportable even to a native of Turkey or Japan.
But if some have still a remnant of humanity left, there are a sufficient
number who execute the laws as unfeelingly as they are conceived.

When these poor priests were to be removed from their several houses, it
was found necessary to dislodge the Bishop of Amiens, who had for some
time occupied the place fixed on for their reception. The Bishop had
notice given him at twelve o'clock in the day to relinquish his lodging
before evening; yet the Bishop of Amiens is a constitutional Prelate, and
had, before the revolution, the cure of a large parish at Paris; nor was
it without much persuasion that he accepted the see of Amiens. In the
severe winter of 1789 he disposed of his plate and library, (the latter
of which was said to be one of the best private collections in Paris,) to
purchase bread for the poor. "But Time hath a wallet on his back,
wherein he puts alms for oblivion;" and the charities of the Bishop could
not shield him from the contempt and insult which pursue his profession.

I have been much distressed within the last few days on account of my
friend Madame de B____. I subjoining a translation of a letter I have
just received from her, as it will convey to you hereafter a tolerable
specimen of French liberty.

"Maison de Arret, at ____.

"I did not write to you, my dear friend, at the time I promised, and
you will perceive, by the date of this, that I have had too good an
excuse for my negligence. I have been here almost a week, and my
spirits are still so much disordered, that I can with difficulty
recollect myself enough to relate the circumstances of our
unfortunate situation; but as it is possible you might become
acquainted with them by some other means, I rather determined to
send you a few lines, than suffer you to be alarmed by false or
exaggerated reports.

"About two o'clock on Monday morning last our servants were called

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