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Mr. Morris arrived in Paris on the 3d of February, 1789, a period of general excitement: the revolution was in the act of fermentation. The first persons he sought out were Mr. Jefferson, the American minister, and La Fayette, with the latter of whom he had been well acquainted in America; and they, of course, now communicated freely with him on the great subject of politics, which at that time engrossed the thoughts of every reflecting man in the country. Mr. Morris, fresh from the establishment of an independent republic (after having spent his youth and best energies in resisting the rule of a mild monarchy), and the Marquis de La Fayette, one of the heroes of the American war, and a most strenuous advocate of the cause of liberty, might have been expected to fall in heartily with each other's views. Least of all could it have been anticipated that the practical republican of America should look with coldness on theoretical republicanism in France. It is nevertheless true, that Mr. Morris deprecated revolutionary projects and principles, and never could coincide in the sentiments of his friend La Fayette. The first mention of him in the Diary of Mr. Morris relates to their first interview. Fayette,” he writes, “is full of politics : he appears to be too republican for the genius of his country.” When La Fayette showed him a draft of the celebrated Declaration of Rights, which he first proposed to the National Assembly, Mr. Morris writes—"I gave him my opinions, and suggested several amendments, tending to soften the high-coloured expressions of freedom. It is not by sounding words that revolutions are produced.” Mr. Morris had borne the brunt of a revolution; he knew the character of its workings; experiment had taught him its tremendous chances; and he saw few about him in France qualified to conduct them to a favourable termination. La Fayette had been an amateur in the same great business; a military volunteer in a successful war: his imagination had been gratified by beholding the grand spectacle of a nation rise up in freedom; but his share in getting it up had not admitted him to the anxieties and apprehensions of those behind the scenes. The Declaration of Rights has long been abandoned as a piece of legislative folly; and Mr. Morris, of all the truths he spoke, never uttered a sounder opinion than that revolutions do not come about by fine words.
But Mr. Morris viewed with equal distaste the principles and opinions of other leaders of the revolution. They were paperpoliticians. He saw that there was not one of them who was aware of the practical results of his opinions, nor of the practical steps which led to their being put into actual execution. The revolution was an affair of sentiment and passion, and by these he well knew that much might be overturned, but that in its place nothing good was likely to be established. Every man had his project, every man had his speech, though none bad ears for other eloquence than their own. But amidst all this oratory and all these plans, there were no leaders acquainted with the management and conduct of a nation; and in the nation itself there were no definite objects, no settled opinions, in short, neither knowledge nor moral force. Mr. Morris never considered these as arguments for a denial of justice, against a redress of grievances, or a thorough reform of the old system of misgovernment; but he saw enough of the most prominent promoters of the revolution, and knew enough of the genius of the country, to be well aware that the new order of things was not to be abandoned to the pleasure of either leaders or people. With these opinions, Mr. Morris, all through the various crises of the revolution—and his residence at Paris continued till its most violent scenes had passed, when he was recalled in 1794, and superseded by Mr. Munroe-leaned to the weaker side --that of the monarchy, nominally only the side of power; and had he had the guidance of the King of France's counsels, or had a man of equal firmness, sagacity, liberality, and energy been in that post, we are strongly inclined to think, that the French might have obtained as good, or a better constitution, under Louis XVI. than they now have under Louis Philippe, after all the changes of dynasty, after all the bloodshed and warfare, after all the loss of treasure, the wreck of private happiness and the agony of public misery, that have been experienced for forty years, not by France alone, but it may be said by all Europe. The gross misconduct of the government was only to be equalled by the intemperance of its opponents. Mr. Morris had his eyes open to the faults of both parties, and never concealed his sentiments, and as little his sympathies. They were, moreover, expressed with that temper, point, and force, which carries weight, and never fails to produce an impression. The high qualities of the American republican gave his disapproval of the French ones a stinging power, which in such times of passion was little likely to be overlooked or forgiven. His appointment as minister after some residence among them in a private character, was therefore not popular, and the reports which the French patriots communicated to their American brethren appear to have made some sensation in the States. But the high character of Gouverneur Morris was unassailable, and Washington and the depositaries of power at home were as convinced of his wisdom as his worth.
The Diary which Mr. Morris kept during the revolution, until the time came when it was dangerous to do so, is a very interesting document. Large extracts are given from it in this publication; we should say, judging as well as we can without having seen the original, that the whole ought to have appeared, and the objection made respecting the limits of the work might have been obviated by publishing the Diary in a separate form. We have reason, however, to be thankful for what we have got. It has clearly been intended solely for private use--a circumstance which confers an additional value on its contents, and reflects a bigher credit on the writer, when we find so many valuable remarks among the unstimulated efforts of a private journal, and so many just views among the first impressions and mere aids to the author's future reflections.
The position of Mr. Morris was an admirable one for a spectator. His ministerial functions (after he assumed them) gave him immunity, while they brought him into contact with the various representatives of government; his connection with a republic gave him access to the leaders of a nation of citizens; his known sympathy with the perishing monarchy opened the court to him ; while his own social powers and high character made him a favourite in the best society that Paris then afforded.
The Diary is illustrated by his correspondence during the revolution, chiefly dated from Paris and addressed to Washington, Jefferson, and others, to whom, either privately or officially, he felt bound to convey accurate notions of the state of the country and the progress of the revolution. This correspondence occupies the principal part of the second volume, and will be considered indispensable by all future students of the history of the period. The letters, as well as the Diary, contain the opinions of the author on current affairs, and are formed on the best information that he could procure at the moment.
In the midst of raging party and a confusion of interests and designs, it would necessarily be difficult to disentangle truth from falsehood, and still more difficult
, among so many elements at work, to foresee the exact results of any particular event. But we must remember that Mr. Morris was fresh from a revolution, and he approached the subject with a deep learning in the ebbs and flows and currents of a highly excited political atmosphere. It is not a little remarkable that in these writings he has scarcely ever taken a single view of the course of events, or passed a judgment on any character, that time has not confirmed. By following his remarks, we get as luminous a view of the springs of the revolution as from any work whatever, of course reckoning upon a knowledge of the mere chronicle of events, such as any historical gazetteer will supply,
The first letter from Paris is dated a very few weeks after his arrival in France; but he reached that country at the time when all the world was preparing to send the States-General to the capital, and of the character of that excitement it did not require. long to judge. Writing to the French minister to the United States to thank him for his letters of introduction, Mr. Morris introduces a paragraph which supplies a complete picture of France between the summons of the States and their election.
“Your nobles, your clergy, your people, are all in motion for the elections. A spirit, which has been dormant for generations, starts up and stares about, ignorant of the means of obtaining, but ardently desirous to possess its object, --consequently, active, energetic, easily led, but also easily, too easily, misled. Such is the instinctive love of freedom, which now grows warm in the bosom of your country. That respect for his sovereign, which forms the distinctive mark of a Frenchman, stimulates and fortifies on the present occasion those sentiments, wbich have hitherto been deemed most hostile to monarchy; for Louis the Sixteenth has bimself proclaimed from the throne a wish, that every barrier should be thrown down, which time or accident may have opposed to the general felicity of bis people. It would be presumptuous in me even to guess at the effects of such causes, operating on materials and in situations of which I confess to you the most profound ignorance.”— vol. ii. p. 60.
In a letter (Feb. 25th, 1789,) to Mr. Carmichael, at that time the minister of the United States at Madrid, Mr. Morris touches upon the singularity already alluded to, that the American republican in Paris should stand up for a falling monarchy.
“A republican, and just as it were emerged from that assembly, which has formed one of the most republican of all republican constitutions, I preach incessantly respect for the prince, attention to the rights of the nobility, and moderation, not only in the object, but also in the pursuit of it. All this, you will say, is none of my business; but I consider France as the natural ally of my country, and of course, that we are interested in her prosperity; besides, to say the truth, I love France, and, as I believe the king to be an honest and good man, I sincerely wish him well, and the more so, as I am persuaded that he earnestly desires the felicity of his people.- volii. pp. 62, 63.
In a letter, written a month afterwards to Washington, Mr. Morris notices the well known Anglo-mania which raged among the French nobility a short time previously to the explosion of the revolution. It is another characteristic of the time.
" This country presents an astonishing spectacle to one who has collected his ideas from books, and information half a dozen years old. Everything is à l'Anglais, and a desire to imitate the English prevails alike in the cut of a coat, and the form of a constitution. Like the English, too, all are engaged in parliamenteering; and when we consider how novel this last business must be, I assure you their progress is far from contemptible.”-vol. ii. p. 63.
A letter to Washington, dated April 29th, 1789, is pregnant with numerous important conclusions. The elections were just
finished, and the instructions (cahiers) given to the representatives, (and which in England it is just now the fashion to call pledges,) were calculated to secure certain points, which had the representatives secured, France would have become perfectly free as to the principles of her constitution. But the representatives, instead of being intent upon their cahiers, chose to try contests of strength with the other orders in limine, and prevailed; then came necessarily a confusion from which the issue mainly depended on the character of the king, the morality of statesmen and leaders, and the steadiness and constancy of the people. We shall find abundant instruction generally in these letters as to the nature of the materials for a revolution then existing in France; and in this letter to Washington the deficiencies, in a moral point of view, are exhibited with great clearness.
“ The materials for a revolution in this country are very indifferent. Every body agrees that there is an utter prostration of morals; but this general position can never convey to an American mind the degree of depravity. It is not by any figure of rhetoric, or force of language, that the idea can be communicated. A hundred anecdotes, and a hundred thousand examples, are required to show the extreme rottenness of every member. There are men and women wbo are greatly and eminently virtuous. I bave the pleasure to number many in my own acquaintance; but they stand forward from a back ground deeply and darkly shaded. It is however from such crumbling matter, that the great edifice of freedom is to be erected bere. Perhaps, like the stratum of rock, which is spread under the whole surface of their country, it may harden when exposed to the air; but it seems quite as likely that it will fall and crush the builders.
“I own to you that I am not without such apprehensions, for there is one fatal principle which pervades all ranks. It is a perfect indifference to the violation of
engagements. Inconstancy is so mingled in the blood, marrow, and very essence of this people, that when a man of high rank and importance laughs to day at what he seriously asserted yesterday, it is considered as in the natural order of things. Consistency is a phenomenon. Judge, then, what would be the value of an association, shonld such a thing be proposed, and even adopted. The great mass of the common people have no religion but their priests, no law but their superiors, no morals but their interest. These are the creatures who, led by drunken curates, are now in the high road à la liberté, and the first use they make of it is to form insurrections everywhere for the want of bread. We have had a little riot here yesterday and the day before, and I am told that some men have been killed; but the affair was so distant from the quarter in which I reside, that I know nothing of the particulars.”—vol. ii. pp. 68, 69.
In a letter to Mr. Jay, not long after the former one, is a remark which accounts for the extremes run into by the French. They had smarted under all the evils of an absolute executive ; VOL, X. NO, XX.