On the part of England, it is very extraordinary that she should have engaged in a former confederacy, and a long expensive war, to prevent the family compact, and now engage in another confederacy to preserve it. And on the part of the other powers, it is as inconsistent that they should engage in a partition project, which, could it be executed, would immediately destroy the balance of maritime power in Europe, and would probably produce a second war, to remedy the political errors of the first.
A Citizen of the United States of America.
XX. APPEAL TO THE CONVENTION.(1)
Citizens Representatives: If I should not express myself with the energy I used formerly to do, you will attribute it to the very dangerous illness I have suffered in the prison of the Luxembourg. For several days I was insensible of my own existence; and though I am much recovered, it is with exceeding great difficulty that I find power to write you this letter.
1 Written in Luxembourg prison, August 7, 1794. Robespierre having fallen July 29th, those who had been imprisoned under his authority were nearly all at once released, but Paine remained. There were still three conspirators against him on the Committee of Public Safety, and to that Committee this appeal was unfortunately confided; consequently it never reached the Convention. The circumstances are related at length infra, in the introduction to the Memorial to Monroe (XXI.). It will also be seen that Paine was mistaken in his belief that his imprisonment was due to the enmity of Robespierre, and this he vaguely suspected when his imprisonment was prolonged three months after Robespierre's death.—Editor..
But before I proceed further, I request the Convention to observe: that this is the first line that has come from me, either to the Convention or to any of the Committees, since my imprisonment,—which is approaching to eight months. —Ah, my friends, eight months' loss of liberty seems almost a life-time to a man who has been, as I have been, the unceasing defender of Liberty for twenty years.
I have now to inform the Convention of the reason of my not having written before. It is a year ago that I had strong reason to believe that Robespierre was my inveterate enemy, as he was the enemy of every man of virtue and humanity. The address that was sent to the Convention some time about last August from Arras, the native town of Robespierre, I have always been informed was the work of that hypocrite and the partizans he had in the place. The intention of that address was to prepare the way for destroying me, by making the people declare (though without assigning any reason) that I had lost their confidence; the Address, however, failed of success, as it was immediately opposed by a counter-address from St. Omer, which declared the direct contrary. But the strange power that Robespierre, by the most consummate hypocrisy and the most hardened cruelties, had obtained, rendered any attempt on my part to obtain justice not only useless but dangerous; for it is the nature of Tyranny always to strike a deeper blow when any attempt has been made to repel a former one. This being my situation, I submitted with patience to the hardness of my fate and waited the event of brighter days. I hope they are now arrived to the nation and to me.
Citizens, when I left the United States in the year 1787 I promised to all my friends that I would return to them the next year; but the hope of seeing a revolution happily established in France, that might serve as a model to the rest of Europe,(1) and the earnest and disinterested desire of rendering every service in my power to promote it, induced me to defer my return to that country, and to the society of my friends, for more than seven years. This long sacrifice of private tranquillity, especially after having gone through the fatigues and dangers of the American Revolution which continued almost eight years, deserved a better fate than the long imprisonment I have silently suffered. But it is not the nation but a faction that has done me this injustice. Parties and Factions, various and numerous as they have been, I have always avoided. My heart was devoted to all France, and the object to which I applied myself was the Constitution. The Plan which I proposed to the Committee, of which I was a member, is now in the hands of Barere, and it will speak for itself.
1 Revolutions have now acquired such sanguinary associations that it is important to bear in mind that by "revolution" Paine always means simply a change or reformation of government, which might be and ought to be bloodless. See "Rights of Man" Part II., vol. ii. of this work, pp. 513, 523.—:Editor.
It is perhaps proper that I inform you of the cause as-assigned in the order for my imprisonment. It is that I am 'a Foreigner'; whereas, the Foreigner thus imprisoned was invited into France by a decree of the late National Assembly, and that in the hour of her greatest danger, when invaded by Austrians and Prussians. He was, moreover, a citizen of the United States of America, an ally of France, and not a subject of any country in Europe, and consequently not within the intentions of any decree concerning Foreigners. But any excuse can be made to serve the purpose of malignity when in power.
I will not intrude on your time by offering any apology for the broken and imperfect manner in which I have expressed myself. I request you to accept it with the sincerity with which it comes from my heart; and I conclude with wishing Fraternity and prosperity to France, and union and happiness to her representatives.
Citizens, I have now stated to you my situation, and I can have no doubt but your justice will restore me to the Liberty of which I have been deprived.
Luxembourg, Thermidor 19, 2nd Year of the French Republic, one and indivisible.
XXI. THE MEMORIAL TO MONROE.
EDITOR'S historical introduction:
The Memorial is here printed from the manuscript of Paine now among the Morrison Papers, in the British Museum,—no doubt the identical document penned in Luxembourg prison. The paper in the United States State Department (vol. vii., Monroe Papers) is accompanied by a note by Monroe: "Mr. Paine, Luxembourg, on my arrival in France, 1794. My answer was after the receipt of his second letter. It is thought necessary to print only those parts of his that relate directly to his confinement, and to omit all between the parentheses in each." The paper thus inscribed seems to have been a wrapper for all of Paine's letters. An examination of the MS. at Washington does not show any such "parentheses," indicating omissions, whereas that in the British Museum has such marks, and has evidently been prepared for the press,—being indeed accompanied by the long title of the French pamphlet. There are other indications that the British Museum MS. is the original Memorial from which was printed in Paris the pamphlet entitled:
"Memoire de Thomas Payne, autographe et signe de sa main: addresse a M. Monroe, ministre des Etats-unis en france, pour reclamer sa mise en liberte comme citoyen Americain, 10 Sept 1794. Robespierre avait fait arreter Th. Payne, en 1793—il fut conduit au Luxembourg ou le glaive fut longtemps suspendu sur sa tete. Apres onze mois de captivite, il recouvra la liberte, sur la reclamation du ministre Americain—c'etait apres la chute de Robespierre—il reprit sa place a la convention, le 8 decembre 1794. (18 frimaire an iii.) Ce Memoire contient des renseigne mens curieux sur la conduite politique de Th. Payne en france, pendant la Revolution, et a l'epoque du proces de Louis XVI. Ce n'est point, dit il, comme Quaker, qu'il ne vota pas La Mort du Roi mais par un sentiment d'humanite, qui ne tenait point a ses principes religieux. Villenave."
No date is given, but the pamphlet probably appeared early in 1795. Matthieu Gillaume Therese Villenave (b. 1762, d. 1846) was a journalist, and it will be noticed that he, or the translator, modifies Paine's answer to Marat about his Quakerism. There are some loose translations in the cheap French pamphlet, but it is the only publication which has given Paine's Memorial with any fulness. Nearly ten pages of the manuscript were omitted from the Memorial when it appeared as an Appendix to the pamphlet entitled "Letter to George Washington, President of the United States of America, on Affairs public and private." By Thomas Paine, Author of the Works entitled, Common Sense, Rights of Man, Age of Reason, &c. Philadelphia: Printed by Benj. Franklin Bache, No. 112 Market Street. 1796. [Entered according to law.] This much-abridged copy of the Memorial has been followed in all subsequent editions, so that the real document has not hitherto appeared.(1)
In appending the Memorial to his "Letter to Washington," Paine would naturally omit passages rendered unimportant by his release, but his friend Bache may have suppressed others that might have embarrassed American partisans of France, such as the scene at the king's trial.
1 Bache's pamphlet reproduces the portrait engraved in Villenave, where it is underlined: "Peint par Ped [Peale] a Philadelphie, Dessine par F. Bonneville, Grave par Sandoz." In Bache it is: "Bolt sc. 1793 "; and beneath this the curious inscription: "Thomas Paine. Secretair d. Americ: Congr: 1780. Mitgl: d. fr. Nat. Convents. 1793." The portrait is a variant of that now in Independence Hall, and one of two painted by C. W. Peale. The other (in which the chin is supported by the hand) was for religious reasons refused by the Boston Museum when it purchased the collection of "American Heroes" from Rembrandt Peale. It was bought by John McDonough, whose brother sold it to Mr. Joseph Jefferson, the eminent actor, and perished when his house was burned at Buzzard's Bay. Mr. Jefferson writes me that he meant to give the portrait to the Paine Memorial Society, Boston; "but the cruel fire roasted the splendid Infidel, so I presume the saints are satisfied."
This description, however, and a large proportion of the suppressed pages, are historically among the most interesting parts of the Memorial, and their restoration renders it necessary to transfer the document from its place as an appendix to that of a preliminary to the "Letter to Washington."
Paine's Letter to Washington burdens his reputation today more, probably, than any other production of his pen. The traditional judgment was formed in the absence of many materials necessary for a just verdict. The editor feels under the necessity of introducing at this point an historical episode; he cannot regard it as fair to the memory of either Paine or Washington that these two chapters should be printed without a full statement of the circumstances, the most important of which, but recently discovered, were unknown to either of those men. In the editor's "Life of Thomas Paine" (ii., pp. 77-180) newly discovered facts and documents bearing on the subject are given, which may be referred to by those who desire to investigate critically such statements as may here appear insufficiently supported. Considerations of space require that the history in that work should be only summarized here, especially as important new details must be added.
Paine was imprisoned (December 28, 1793) through the hostility of Gouverneur Morris, the American Minister in Paris. The fact that the United States, after kindling revolution in France by its example, was then represented in that country by a Minister of vehement royalist opinions, and one who literally entered into the service of the King to defeat the Republic, has been shown by that Minister's own biographers. Some light is cast on the events that led to this strange situation by a letter written to M. de Mont-morin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, by a French Charge d'Affaires, Louis Otto, dated Philadelphia, 10 March, 1792. Otto, a nobleman who married into the Livingston family, was an astute diplomatist, and enjoyed the intimacy of the Secretary of State, Jefferson, and of his friends. At the close of a long interview Jefferson tells him that "The secresy with which the Senate covers its deliberations serves to veil personal interest, which reigns therein in all its strength." Otto explains this as referring to the speculative operations of Senators, and to the commercial connections some of them have with England, making them unfriendly to French interests.
"Among the latter the most remarkable is Mr. Robert Morris, of English birth, formerly Superintendent of Finance, a man of greatest talent, whose mercantile speculations are as unlimited as his ambition. He directs the Senate as he once did the American finances in making it keep step with his policy and his business.... About two years ago Mr. Robert Morris sent to France Mr. Gouverneur Morris to negotiate a loan in his name, and for different other personal matters.... During his sojourn in France, Mr. Rob. Morris thought he could make him more useful for his aims by inducing the President of the United States to entrust him with a negotiation with England relative to the Commerce of the two countries. M. Gouv. Morris acquitted himself in this as an adroit man, and with his customary zeal, but despite his address (insinuation) obtained only the vague hope of an advantageous commercial treaty on condition of an Alliance resembling that between France and the United States.... [Mr. Robert Morris] is himself English, and interested in all the large speculations founded in this country for Great Britain.... His great services as Superintendent of Finance during the Revolution have assured him the esteem and consideration of General Washington, who, however, is far from adopting his views about France. The warmth with which Mr. Rob. Morris opposed in the Senate the exemption of French armateurs from tonnage, demanded by His Majesty, undoubtedly had for its object to induce the king, by this bad behavior, to break the treaty, in order to facilitate hereafter the negotiations begun with England to form an alliance. As for Mr. Gouv. Morris he is entirely devoted to his correspondent, with whom he has been constantly connected in business and opinion. His great talents are recognized, and his extreme quickness in conceiving new schemes and gaining others to them. He is perhaps the most eloquent and ingenious man of his country, but his countrymen themselves distrust his talents. They admire but fear him." (1)
1 Archives of the State Department, Paris, Etats Unis., vol. 35, fol. 301.
The Commission given to Gouverneur Morris by Washington, to which Otto refers, was in his own handwriting, dated October 13, 1789, and authorized him "in the capacity of private agent, and in the credit of this letter, to converse with His Britannic Majesty's ministers on these points, viz. whether there be any, and what objection to performing those articles of the treaty which remained to be performed on his part; and whether they incline to a treaty of commerce on any and what terms. This communication ought regularly to be made to you by the Secretary of State; but, that office not being at present filled, my desire of avoiding delays induces me to make it under my own hand."(1)
The President could hardly have assumed the authority of secretly appointing a virtual ambassador had there not been a tremendous object in view: this, as he explains in an accompanying letter, was to secure the evacuation by Great Britain of the frontier posts. This all-absorbing purpose of Washington is the key to his administration. Gouverneur Morris paved the way for Jay's treaty, and he was paid for it with the French mission. The Senate would not have tolerated his appointment to England, and only by a majority of four could the President secure his confirmation as Minister to France (January 12, 1792). The President wrote Gouverneur Morris (January 28th) a friendly lecture about the objections made to him, chiefly that he favored the aristocracy and was unfriendly to the revolution, and expressed "the fullest confidence" that, supposing the allegations founded, he would "effect a change." But Gouverneur Morris remained the agent of Senator Robert Morris, and still held Washington's mission to England, and he knew only as "conspirators" the rulers who succeeded Louis XVI. Even while utilizing them, he was an agent of Great Britain in its war against the country to which he was officially commissioned.
1 Ford's "Writings of George Washington" vol. xi., p. 440.
Lafayette wrote to Washington ("Paris, March 15,1792") the following appeal:
"Permit me, my dear General, to make an observation for yourself alone, on the recent selection of an American ambassador. Personally I am a friend of Gouverneur Morris, and have always been, in private, quite content with him; but the aristocratic and really contra-revolutionary principles which he has avowed render him little fit to represent the only government resembling ours.... I cannot repress the desire that American and French principles should be in the heart and on the lips of the ambassador of the United States in France." (1)
In addition to this; two successive Ministers from France, after the fall of the Monarchy, conveyed to the American Government the most earnest remonstrances against the continuance of Gouverneur Morris in their country, one of them reciting the particular offences of which he was guilty. The President's disregard of all these protests and entreaties, unexampled perhaps in history, had the effect of giving Gouverneur Morris enormous power over the country against which he was intriguing. He was recognized as the Irremovable. He represented Washington's fixed and unalterable determination, and this at a moment when the main purpose of the revolutionary leaders was to preserve the alliance with America. Robespierre at that time ( 1793) had special charge of diplomatic affairs, and it is shown by the French historian, Frederic Masson, that he was very anxious to recover for the republic the initiative of the American alliance credited to the king; and "although their Minister, Gouverneur Morris, was justly suspected, and the American republic was at that time aiming only to utilize the condition of its ally, the French republic cleared it at a cheap rate of its debts contracted with the King."(2) Morris adroitly held this doubt, whether the alliance of his government with Louis XVI. would be continued to that King's executioners, over the head of the revolutionists, as a suspended sword. Under that menace, and with the authentication of being Washington's irremovable mouthpiece, this Minister had only to speak and it was done.
1 "Memoire", etc., du General Lafayette," Bruxelles, 1837, tome ii., pp. 484,485.
2 "Le Departement des Affaires Etrangeres pendant la Revolution," p. 395.
Meanwhile Gouverneur Morris was steadily working in France for the aim which he held in common with Robert Morris, namely to transfer the alliance from France to England. These two nations being at war, it was impossible for France to fulfil all the terms of the alliance; it could not permit English ships alone to seize American provisions on the seas, and it was compelled to prevent American vessels from leaving French ports with cargoes certain of capture by British cruisers. In this way a large number of American Captains with their ships were detained in France, to their distress, but to their Minister's satisfaction. He did not fail to note and magnify all "infractions" of the treaty, with the hope that they might be the means of annulling it in favor of England, and he did nothing to mitigate sufferings which were counts in his indictment of the Treaty.
It was at this point that Paine came in the American Minister's way. He had been on good terms with Gouverneur Morris, who in 1790 (May 29th) wrote from London to the President:
"On the 17th Mr. Paine called to tell me that he had conversed on the same subject [impressment of American seamen] with Mr. Burke, who had asked him if there was any minister, consul, or other agent of the United States who could properly make application to the Government: to which he had replied in the negative; but said that I was here, who had been a member of Congress, and was therefore the fittest person to step forward. In consequence of what passed thereupon between them he [Paine] urged me to take the matter up, which I promised to do. On the 18th I wrote to the Duke of Leeds requesting an interview."
1 Force's "American State Papers, For. Rel.," vol. i.
At that time (1790) Paine was as yet a lion in London, thus able to give Morris a lift. He told Morris, in 1792 that he considered his appointment to France a mistake. This was only on the ground of his anti-republican opinions; he never dreamed of the secret commissions to England. He could not have supposed that the Minister who had so promptly presented the case of impressed seamen in England would not equally attend to the distressed Captains in France; but these, neglected by their Minister, appealed to Paine. Paine went to see Morris, with whom he had an angry interview, during which he asked Morris "if he did not feel ashamed to take the money of the country and do nothing for it." Paine thus incurred the personal enmity of Gouverneur Morris. By his next step he endangered this Minister's scheme for increasing the friction between France and America; for Paine advised the Americans to appeal directly to the Convention, and introduced them to that body, which at once heeded their application, Morris being left out of the matter altogether. This was August 22d, and Morris was very angry. It is probable that the Americans in Paris felt from that time that Paine was in danger, for on September 13th a memorial, evidently concocted by them, was sent to the French government proposing that they should send Commissioners to the United States to forestall the intrigues of England, and that Paine should go with them, and set forth their case in the journals, as he "has great influence with the people." This looks like a design to get Paine safely out of the country, but it probably sealed his fate. Had Paine gone to America and reported there Morris's treacheries to France and to his own country, and his licentiousness, notorious in Paris, which his diary has recently revealed to the world, the career of the Minister would have swiftly terminated. Gouverneur Morris wrote to Robert Morris that Paine was intriguing for his removal, and intimates that he (Paine) was ambitious of taking his place in Paris. Paine's return to America must be prevented.
Had the American Minister not been well known as an enemy of the republic it might have been easy to carry Paine from the Convention to the guillotine; but under the conditions the case required all of the ingenuity even of a diplomatist so adroit as Gouverneur Morris. But fate had played into his hand. It so happened that Louis Otto, whose letter from Philadelphia has been quoted, had become chief secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Paris, M. Deforgues. This Minister and his Secretary, apprehending the fate that presently overtook both, were anxious to be appointed to America. No one knew better than Otto the commanding influence of Gouverneur Morris, as Washington's "irremovable" representative, both in France and America, and this desire of the two frightened officials to get out of France was confided to him.(1) By hope of his aid, and by this compromising confidence, Deforgues came under the power of a giant who used it like a giant. Morris at once hinted that Paine was fomenting the troubles given by Genet to Washington in America, and thus set in motion the procedure by which Paine was ultimately lodged in prison.
There being no charge against Paine in France, and no ill-will felt towards him by Robespierre, compliance with the supposed will of Washington was in this case difficult. Six months before, a law had been passed to imprison aliens of hostile nationality, which could not affect Paine, he being a member of the Convention and an American. But a decree was passed, evidently to reach Paine, "that no foreigner should be admitted to represent the French people"; by this he was excluded from the Convention, and the Committee of General Surety enabled to take the final step of assuming that he was an Englishman, and thus under the decree against aliens of hostile nations.(2)
1 Letter of Gouverneur Morris to Washington, Oct 19, 1793. Sparks's "Life of Gouverneur Morris," vol. ii., p. 375.
2 Although, as I have said, there was no charge against Paine in France, and none assigned in any document connected with his arrest, some kind of insinuation had to be made in the Convention to cover proceedings against a Deputy, and Bourdon de l'Oise said, "I know that he has intrigued with a former agent of the bureau of Foreign Affairs." It will be seen by the third addendum to the Memorial to Monroe that Paine supposed this to refer to Louis Otto, who had been his interpreter in an interview requested by Barere, of the Committee of Public Safety. But as Otto was then, early in September, 1793, Secretary in the Foreign Office, and Barere a fellow-terrorist of Bourdon, there could be no accusation based on an interview which, had it been probed, would have put Paine's enemies to confusion. It is doubtful, however, if Paine was right in his conjecture. The reference of Bourdon was probably to the collusion between Paine and Genet suggested by Morris.
Paine was thus lodged in prison simply to please Washington, to whom it was left to decide whether he had been rightly represented by his Minister in the case. When the large number of Americans in Paris hastened in a body to the Convention to demand his release, the President (Vadier) extolled Paine, but said his birth in England brought him under the measures of safety, and referred them to the Committees. There they were told that "their reclamation was only the act of individuals, without any authority from the American Government." Unfortunately the American petitioners, not understanding by this a reference to the President, unsuspiciously repaired to Morris, as also did Paine by letter. The Minister pretended compliance, thereby preventing their direct appeal to the President. Knowing, however, that America would never agree that nativity under the British flag made Paine any more than other Americans a citizen of England, the American Minister came from Sain-port, where he resided, to Paris, and secured from the obedient Deforgues a certificate that he had reclaimed Paine as an American citizen, but that he was held as a French citizen. This ingeniously prepared certificate which was sent to the Secretary of State (Jefferson), and Morris's pretended "reclamation," which was never sent to America, are translated in my "Life of Paine," and here given in the original.
A Paris le 14 fevrier 1794, 26 pluviose.
Le Minisire plenipotentiaire des Etats Unis de l'Amerique pres la Republique francaise au Ministre des Affaires Etrangeres.
Thomas Paine vient de s'adresser a moi pour que je le reclame comme Citoyen des Etats Unis. Voici (je crois) les Faits que le regardent. Il est ne en Angleterre. Devenu ensuite Citoyen des Etats Unis il s'y est acquise une grande celebrite par des Ecrits revolutionnaires. En consequence il fut adopte Citoyen francais et ensuite elu membre de la Convention. Sa conduite depuis cette epoque n'est pas de mon ressort. J'ignore la cause de sa Detention actuelle dans la prison du Luxembourg, mais je vous prie Monsieur (si des raisons que ne me sont pas connues s'opposent a sa liberation) de vouloir bien m'en instruire pour que je puisse les communiquer au Gouvernement des Etats Unis. J'ai l'honneur d'etre, Monsieur,
Votre tres humble Serviteur
Paris, i Ventose l'An ad. de la Republique une et indivisible.
Le Ministre des Affaires Etrangeres au Ministre Plenipotentiaire des Etats Unis de V Amerique pres la Republique Francaise.
Par votre lettre du 26 du mois dernier, vous reclamez la liberte de Thomas Faine, comme Citoyen americain. Ne en Angleterre, cet ex-depute est devenu successivement Citoyen Americain et Citoyen francais. En acceptant ce dernier titre et en remplissant une place dans le Corps Legislatif, il est soumis aux lob de la Republique et il a renonce de fait a la protection que le droit des gens et les traites conclus avec les Etats Unis auraient pu lui assurer.
J'ignore les motifs de sa detention mais je dois presumer quils bien fondes. Je vois neanmoins soumettre au Comite de Salut Public la demande que vous m'avez adressee et je m'empresserai de vous faire connaitre sa decision.
Dir ORGUBS. (1)
1 Archives of the Foreign Office, Paris, "Etats Unis," vol. xl. Translations:—Morris: "Sir,—Thomas Paine has just applied to me to claim him as a citizen of the United States. Here (I believe) are the facts relating to him. He was born in England. Having afterwards become a citizen of the United States, he acquired great celebrity there by his revolutionary writings. In consequence he was adopted a French citizen and then elected Member of the Convention. His conduct since this epoch is out of my jurisdiction. I am ignorant of the reason for his present detention in the Luxembourg prison, but I beg you, sir (if reasons unknown to me prevent his liberation), be so good as to inform me, that I may communicate them to the government of the United States." Deporgurs: "By your letter of the 36th of last month you reclaim the liberty of Thomas Paine as an American citizen. Born in England, this ex-deputy has become successively an American and a French citizen. In accepting this last title, and in occupying a place in the Corps Legislatif he submitted himself to the laws of the Republic, and has certainly renounced the protection which the law of nations, and treaties concluded with the United States, could have assured him. I am ignorant of the motives of his detention, but I must presume they are well founded. I shall nevertheless submit to the Committee of Public Safety the demand you have addressed to me, and I shall lose no time in letting you know its decision."
It will be seen that Deforgues begins his letter with a falsehood: "You reclaim the liberty of Paine as an American citizen." Morris's letter had declared him a French citizen out of his (the American Minister's) "jurisdiction." Morris states for Deforgues his case, and it is obediently adopted, though quite discordant with the decree, which imprisoned Paine as a foreigner. Deforgues also makes Paine a member of a non-existent body, the "Corps Legislatif," which might suggest in Philadelphia previous connection with the defunct Assembly. No such inquiries as Deforgues promised, nor any, were ever made, and of course none were intended. Morris had got from Deforgues the certificate he needed to show in Philadelphia and to Americans in Paris. His pretended "reclamation" was of course withheld: no copy of it ever reached America till brought from French archives by the present writer. Morris does not appear to have ventured even to keep a copy of it himself. The draft (presumably in English), found among his papers by Sparks, alters the fatal sentence which deprived Paine of his American citizenship and of protection. "Res-sort"—jurisdiction—which has a definite technical meaning in the mouth of a Minister, is changed to "cognizance"; the sentence is made to read, "his conduct from that time has not come under my cognizance." (Sparks's "Life of Gouverneur Morris," i., p. 401). Even as it stands in his book, Sparks says: "The application, it must be confessed, was neither pressing in its terms, nor cogent in its arguments."
The American Minister, armed with this French missive, dictated by himself, enclosed it to the Secretary of State, whom he supposed to be still Jefferson, with a letter stating that he had reclaimed Paine as an American, that he (Paine) was held to answer for "crimes," and that any further attempt to release him would probably be fatal to the prisoner. By these falsehoods, secured from detection by the profound secrecy of the Foreign Offices in both countries, Morris paralyzed all interference from America, as Washington could not of course intervene in behalf of an American charged with "crimes" committed in a foreign country, except to demand his trial. But it was important also to paralyze further action by Americans in Paris, and to them, too, was shown the French certificate of a reclamation never made. A copy was also sent to Paine, who returned to Morris an argument which he entreated him to embody in a further appeal to the French Minister. This document was of course buried away among the papers of Morris, who never again mentioned Paine in any communication to the French government, but contented himself with personal slanders of his victim in private letters to Washington's friend, Robert Morris, and no doubt others. I quote Sparks's summary of the argument unsuspectingly sent by Paine to Morris:
"He first proves himself to have been an American citizen, a character of which he affirms no subsequent act had deprived him. The title of French citizen was a mere nominal and honorary one, which the Convention chose to confer, when they asked him to help them in making a Constitution. But let the nature or honor of the title be what it might, the Convention had taken it away of their own accord. 'He was excluded from the Convention on the motion for excluding foreigners. Consequently he was no longer under the law of the Republic as a citizen, but under the protection of the Treaty of Alliance, as fully and effectually as any other citizen of America. It was therefore the duty of the American Minister to demand his release.'"
To this Sparks adds:
"Such is the drift of Paine's argument, and it would seem indeed that he could not be a foreigner and a citizen at the same time. It was hard that his only privilege of citizenship should be that of imprisonment. But this logic was a little too refined for the revolutionary tribunals of the Jacobins in Paris, and Mr. Morris well knew it was not worth while to preach it to them. He did not believe there was any serious design at that time against the life of the prisoner, and he considered his best chance of safety to be in preserving silence for the present. Here the matter rested, and Paine was left undisturbed till the arrival of Mr. Monroe, who procured his discharge from confinement." ("Life of Gouverneur Morris," i., p. 417.)l
Sparks takes the gracious view of the man whose Life he was writing, but the facts now known turn his words to sarcasm. The Terror by which Paine suffered was that of Morris, who warned him and his friends, both in Paris and America, that if his case was stirred the knife would fall on him. Paine declares (see xx.) that this danger kept him silent till after the fall of Robespierre. None knew so well as Morris that there were no charges against Paine for offences in France, and that Robespierre was awaiting that action by Washington which he (Morris) had rendered impossible. Having thus suspended the knife over Paine for six months, Robespierre interpreted the President's silence, and that of Congress, as confirmation of Morris's story, and resolved on the execution of Paine "in the interests of America as well as of France"; in other words to conciliate Washington to the endangered alliance with France.
Paine escaped the guillotine by the strange accident related in a further chapter. The fall of Robespierre did not of course end his imprisonment, for he was not Robespierre's but Washington's prisoner. Morris remained Minister in France nearly a month after Robespierre's death, but the word needed to open Paine's prison was not spoken. After his recall, had Monroe been able at once to liberate Paine, an investigation must have followed, and Morris would probably have taken his prisoner's place in the Luxembourg. But Morris would not present his letters of recall, and refused to present his successor, thus keeping Monroe out of his office four weeks. In this he was aided by Bourdon de l'Oise (afterwards banished as a royalist conspirator, but now a commissioner to decide on prisoners); also by tools of Robespierre who had managed to continue on the Committee of Public Safety by laying their crimes on the dead scapegoat—Robespierre. Against Barere (who had signed Paine's death-warrant), Billaud-Varennes, and Colloit d'Her-bois, Paine, if liberated, would have been a terrible witness. The Committee ruled by them had suppressed Paine's appeal to the Convention, as they presently suppressed Monroe's first appeal. Paine, knowing that Monroe had arrived, but never dreaming that the manoeuvres of Morris were keeping him out of office, wrote him from prison the following letters, hitherto unpublished.
1 There is no need to delay the reader here with any argument about Paine's unquestionable citizenship, that point having been settled by his release as an American, and the sanction of Monroe's action by his government. There was no genuineness in any challenge of Paine's citizenship, but a mere desire to do him an injury. In this it had marvellous success. Ten years after Paine had been reclaimed by Monroe, with the sanction of Washington, as an American citizen, his vote was refused at New Rochelle, New York, by the supervisor, Elisha Ward, on the ground that Washington and Morris had refused to Declaim him. Under his picture of the dead Paine, Jarvis, the artist, wrote: "A man who devoted his whole life to the attainment of two objects—rights of man, and freedom of conscience—had his vote denied when living, and was denied a grave when dead."—Editor.
August 17th, 1794.
My Dear Sir: As I believe none of the public papers have announced your name right I am unable to address you by it, but a new minister from America is joy to me and will be so to every American in France.
Eight months I have been imprisoned, and I know not for what, except that the order says that I am a Foreigner. The Illness I have suffered in this place (and from which I am but just recovering) had nearly put an end to my existence. My life is but of little value to me in this situation tho' I have borne it with a firmness of patience and fortitude.
I enclose you a copy of a letter, (as well the translation as the English)—which I sent to the Convention after the fall of the Monster Robespierre—for I was determined not to write a line during the time of his detestable influence. I sent also a copy to the Committee of public safety—but I have not heard any thing respecting it. I have now no expectation of delivery but by your means—Morris has been my inveterate enemy and I think he has permitted something of the national Character of America to suffer by quietly letting a Citizen of that Country remain almost eight months in prison without making every official exertion to procure him justice,—for every act of violence offered to a foreigner is offered also to the Nation to which he belongs.
The gentleman, Mr. Beresford, who will present you this has been very friendly to me.(1) Wishing you happiness in your appointment, I am your affectionate friend and humble servant.
August 18th, 1794.
Dear Sir: In addition to my letter of yesterday (sent to Mr. Beresford to be conveyed to you but which is delayed on account of his being at St. Germain) I send the following memoranda.
I was in London at the time I was elected a member of this Convention. I was elected a Depute in four different departments without my knowing any thing of the matter, or having the least idea of it. The intention of electing the Convention before the time of the former Legislature expired, was for the purpose of reforming the Constitution or rather for forming a new one. As the former Legislature shewed a disposition that I should assist in this business of the new Constitution, they prepared the way by voting me a French Citoyen (they conferred the same title on General Washington and certainly I had no more idea than he had of vacating any part of my real Citizenship of America for a nominal one in France, especially at a time when she did not know whether she would be a Nation or not, and had it not even in her power to promise me protection). I was elected (the second person in number of Votes, the Abbe Sieves being first) a member for forming the Constitution, and every American in Paris as well as my other acquaintance knew that it was my intention to return to America as soon as the Constitution should be established. The violence of Party soon began to shew itself in the Convention, but it was impossible for me to see upon what principle they differed—unless it was a contention for power. I acted however as I did in America, I connected myself with no Party, but considered myself altogether a National Man—but the case with Parties generally is that when you are not with one you are supposed to be with the other.
1 A friendly lamp-lighter, alluded to in the Letter to Washington, conveyed this letter to Mr. Beresford.— Editor.
I was taken out of bed between three and four in the morning on the 28 of December last, and brought to the Luxembourg—without any other accusation inserted in the order than that I was a foreigner; a motion having been made two days before in the Convention to expel Foreigners therefrom. I certainly then remained, even upon their own tactics, what I was before, a Citizen of America.
About three weeks after my imprisonment the Americans that were in Paris went to the bar of the Convention to reclaim me, but contrary to my advice, they made their address into a Petition, and it miscarried. I then applied to G. Morris, to reclaim me as an official part of his duty, which he found it necessary to do, and here the matter stopt.(1) I have not heard a single line or word from any American since, which is now seven months. I rested altogether on the hope that a new Minister would arrive from America. I have escaped with life from more dangers than one. Had it not been for the fall of Roberspierre and your timely arrival I know not what fate might have yet attended me. There seemed to be a determination to destroy all the Prisoners without regard to merit, character, or any thing else. During the time I laid at the height of my illness they took, in one night only, 169 persons out of this prison and executed all but eight. The distress that I have suffered at being obliged to exist in the midst of such horrors, exclusive of my own precarious situation, suspended as it were by the single thread of accident, is greater than it is possible you can conceive—but thank God times are at last changed, and I hope that your Authority will release me from this unjust imprisonment.
1 The falsehood told Paine, accompanied by an intimation of danger in pursuing the pretended reclamation, was of course meant to stop any farther action by Paine or his friends.— Editor..
August 25, 1794.
My Dear Sir: Having nothing to do but to sit and think, I will write to pass away time, and to say that I am still here. I have received two notes from Mr. Beresford which are encouraging (as the generality of notes and letters are that arrive to persons here) but they contain nothing explicit or decisive with respect to my liberation, and I shall be very glad to receive a line from yourself to inform me in what condition the matter stands. If I only glide out of prison by a sort of accident America gains no credit by my liberation, neither can my attachment to her be increased by such a circumstance. She has had the services of my best days, she has my allegiance, she receives my portion of Taxes for my house in Borden Town and my farm at New Rochelle, and she owes me protection both at home and thro' her Ministers abroad, yet I remain in prison, in the face of her Minister, at the arbitrary will of a committee.
Excluded as I am from the knowledge of everything and left to a random of ideas, I know not what to think or how to act. Before there was any Minister here (for I consider Morris as none) and while the Robespierrian faction lasted, I had nothing to do but to keep my mind tranquil and expect the fate that was every day inflicted upon my comrades, not individually but by scores. Many a man whom I have passed an hour with in conversation I have seen marching to his destruction the next hour, or heard of it the next morning; for what rendered the scene more horrible was that they were generally taken away at midnight, so that every man went to bed with the apprehension of never seeing his friends or the world again.
I wish to impress upon you that all the changes that have taken place in Paris have been sudden. There is now a moment of calm, but if thro' any over complaisance to the persons you converse with on the subject of my liberation, you omit procuring it for me now, you may have to lament the fate of your friend when its too late. The loss of a Battle to the Northward or other possible accident may happen to bring this about. I am not out of danger till I am out of Prison.
P. S.—I am now entirely without money. The Convention owes me 1800 livres salary which I know not how to get while I am here, nor do I know how to draw for money on the rent of my farm in America. It is under the care of my good friend General Lewis Morris. I have received no rent since I have been in Europe.
[Addressed] Minister Plenipotentiary from America, Maison des Etrangers, Rue de la Loi, Rue Richelieu.
Such was the sufficiently cruel situation when there reached Paine in prison, September 4th, the letter of Peter Whiteside which caused him to write his Memorial. Whiteside was a Philadelphian whose bankruptcy in London had swallowed up some of Paine's means. His letter, reporting to Paine that he was not regarded by the American Government or people as an American citizen, and that no American Minister could interfere in his behalf, was evidently inspired by Morris who was still in Paris, the authorities being unwilling to give him a passport to Switzerland, as they knew he was going in that direction to join the conspirators against France. This Whiteside letter put Paine, and through him Monroe, on a false scent by suggesting that the difficulty of his case lay in a bona fide question of citizenship, whereas there never had been really any such question. The knot by which Morris had bound Paine was thus concealed, and Monroe was appealing to polite wolves in the interest of their victim. There were thus more delays, inexplicable alike to Monroe and to Paine, eliciting from the latter some heartbroken letters, not hitherto printed, which I add at the end of the Memorial. To add to the difficulties and dangers, Paris was beginning to be agitated by well-founded rumors of Jay's injurious negotiations in England, and a coldness towards Monroe was setting in. Had Paine's release been delayed much longer an American Minister's friendship might even have proved fatal. Of all this nothing could be known to Paine, who suffered agonies he had not known during the Reign of Terror. The other prisoners of Robespierre's time had departed; he alone paced the solitary corridors of the Luxembourg, chilled by the autumn winds, his cell tireless, unlit by any candle, insufficiently nourished, an abscess forming in his side; all this still less cruel than the feeling that he was abandoned, not only by Washington but by all America.
This is the man of whom Washington wrote to Madison nine years before: "Must the merits and services of 'Common Sense' continue to glide down the stream of time unrewarded by this country?" This, then, is his reward. To his old comrade in the battle-fields of Liberty, George Washington, Paine owed his ten months of imprisonment, at the end of which Monroe found him a wreck, and took him (November 4) to his own house, where he and his wife nursed him back into life. But it was not for some months supposed that Paine could recover; it was only after several relapses; and it was under the shadow of death that he wrote the letter to Washington so much and so ignorantly condemned. Those who have followed the foregoing narrative will know that Paine's grievances were genuine, that his infamous treatment stains American history; but they will also know that they lay chiefly at the door of a treacherous and unscrupulous American Minister.
Yet it is difficult to find an excuse for the retention of that Minister in France by Washington. On Monroe's return to America in 1797, he wrote a pamphlet concerning the mission from which he had been curtly recalled, in which he said:
"I was persuaded from Mr. Morris's known political character and principles, that his appointment, and especially at a period when the French nation was in a course of revolution from an arbitrary to a free government, would tend to discountenance the republican cause there and at home, and otherwise weaken, and greatly to our prejudice, the connexion subsisting between the two countries."
In a copy of this pamphlet found at Mount Vernon, Washington wrote on the margin of this sentence:
"Mr. Morris was known to be a man of first rate abilities; and his integrity and honor had never been impeached. Besides, Mr. Morris was sent whilst the kingly government was in existence, ye end of 91 or beginning of 92." (1)
But this does not explain why Gouverneur Morris was persistently kept in France after monarchy was abolished (September 21, 1792), or even after Lafayette's request for his removal, already quoted. To that letter of Lafayette no reply has been discovered. After the monarchy was abolished, Ternant and Genet successively carried to America protests from their Foreign Office against the continuance of a Minister in France, who was known in Paris, and is now known to all acquainted with his published papers, to have all along made his office the headquarters of British intrigue against France, American interests being quite subordinated. Washington did not know this, but he might have known it, and his disregard of French complaints can hardly be ascribed to any other cause than his delusion that Morris was deeply occupied with the treaty negotiations confided to him. It must be remembered that Washington believed such a treaty with England to be the alternative of war.(2) On that apprehension the British party in America, and British agents, played to the utmost, and under such influences Washington sacrificed many old friendships,—with Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Edmund Randolph, Paine,—and also the confidence of his own State, Virginia.
1 Washington's marginal notes on Monroe's "View, etc.," were first fully given in Ford's "Writings of Washington," vol. xiii., p. 452, seq.
2 Ibid., p. 453.
There is a traditional impression that Paine's angry letter to Washington was caused by the President's failure to inter-pose for his relief from prison. But Paine believed that the American Minister (Morris) had reclaimed him in some feeble fashion, as an American citizen, and he knew that the President had officially approved Monroe's action in securing his release. His grievance was that Washington, whose letters of friendship he cherished, who had extolled his services to America, should have manifested no concern personally, made no use of his commanding influence to rescue him from daily impending death, sent to his prison no word of kindness or inquiry, and sent over their mutual friend Monroe without any instructions concerning him; and finally, that his private letter, asking explanation, remained unanswered. No doubt this silence of Washington concerning the fate of Paine, whom he acknowledged to be an American citizen, was mainly due to his fear of offending England, which had proclaimed Paine. The "outlaw's" imprisonment in Paris caused jubilations among the English gentry, and went on simultaneously with Jay's negotiations in London, when any expression by Washington of sympathy with Paine (certain of publication) might have imperilled the Treaty, regarded by the President as vital.
So anxious was the President about this, that what he supposed had been done for Paine by Morris, and what had really been done by Monroe, was kept in such profound secrecy, that even his Secretary of State, Pickering, knew nothing of it. This astounding fact I recently discovered in the manuscripts of that Secretary.(1) Colonel Pickering, while flattering enough to the President in public, despised his intellect, and among his papers is a memorandum concluding as follows:
"But when the hazards of the Revolutionary War had ended, by the establishment of our Independence, why was the knowledge of General Washington's comparatively defective mental powers not freely divulged? Why, even by the enemies of his civil administration were his abilities very tenderly glanced at? —Because there were few, if any men, who did not revere him for his distinguished virtues; his modesty—his unblemished integrity, his pure and disinterested patriotism. These virtues, of infinitely more value than exalted abilities without them, secured to him the veneration and love of his fellow citizens at large. Thus immensely popular, no man was willing to publish, under his hand, even the simple truth. The only exception, that I recollect, was the infamous Tom Paine; and this when in France, after he had escaped the guillotine of Robespierre; and in resentment, because, after he had participated in the French Revolution, President Washington seemed not to have thought him so very important a character in the world, as officially to interpose for his relief from the fangs of the French ephemeral Rulers. In a word, no man, however well informed, was willing to hazard his own popularity by exhibiting the real intellectual character of the immensely popular Washington."
1 Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 11., p. 171.
How can this ignorance of an astute man, Secretary of State under Washington and Adams, be explained? Had Washington hidden the letters showing on their face that he had "officially interposed" for Paine by two Ministers?
Madison, writing to Monroe, April 7, 1796, says that Pickering had spoken to him "in harsh terms" of a letter written by Paine to the President. This was a private letter of September 20, 1795, afterwards printed in Paine's public Letter to Washington. The Secretary certainly read that letter on its arrival, January 18, 1796, and yet Washington does not appear to have told him of what had been officially done in Paine's case! Such being the secrecy which Washington had carried from the camp to the cabinet, and the morbid extent of it while the British Treaty was in negotiation and discussion, one can hardly wonder at his silence under Paine's private appeal and public reproach.
Much as Pickering hated Paine, he declares him the only man who ever told the simple truth about Washington. In the lapse of time historical research, while removing the sacred halo of Washington, has revealed beneath it a stronger brain than was then known to any one. Paine published what many whispered, while they were fawning on Washington for office, or utilizing his power for partisan ends. Washington, during his second administration, when his mental decline was remarked by himself, by Jefferson, and others, was regarded by many of his eminent contemporaries as fallen under the sway of small partisans. Not only was the influence of Jefferson, Madison, Randolph, Monroe, Livingston, alienated, but the counsels of Hamilton were neutralized by Wolcott and Pickering, who apparently agreed about the President's "mental powers." Had not Paine previously incurred the odium theologicum, his pamphlet concerning Washington would have been more damaging; even as it was, the verdict was by no means generally favorable to the President, especially as the replies to Paine assumed that Washington had indeed failed to try and rescue him from impending death.(1) A pamphlet written by Bache, printed anonymously (1797), Remarks occasioned by the late conduct of Mr. Washington, indicates the belief of those who raised Washington to power, that both Randolph and Paine had been sacrificed to please Great Britain.
The Bien-informe (Paris, November 12, 1797) published a letter from Philadelphia, which may find translation here as part of the history of the pamphlet:
"The letter of Thomas Paine to General Washington is read here with avidity. We gather from the English papers that the Cabinet of St James has been unable to stop the circulation of that pamphlet in England, since it is allowable to reprint there any English work already published elsewhere, however disagreeable to Messrs. Pitt and Dundas. We read in the letter to Washington that Robespierre had declared to the Committee of Public Safety that it was desirable in the interests of both France and America that Thomas Paine, who, for seven or eight months had been kept a prisoner in the Luxembourg, should forthwith be brought up for judgment before the revolutionary tribunal. The proof of this fact is found in Robespierre's papers, and gives ground for strange suspicions."
1 The principal ones were "A Letter to Thomas Paine. By an American Citizen. New York, 1797," and "A Letter to the infamous Tom Paine, in answer to his Letter to General Washington. December 1796. By Peter Porcupine" (Cobbett). Writing to David Stuart, January 8,1797, Washington, speaking of himself in the third person, says: "Although he is soon to become a private citizen, his opinions are to be knocked down, and his character traduced as low as they are capable of sinking it, even by resorting to absolute falsehoods. As an evidence whereof, and of the plan they are pursuing, I send you a letter of Mr. Paine to me, printed in this city and disseminated with great industry. Enclosed you will receive also a production of Peter Porcupine, alias William Cobbett. Making allowances for the asperity of an Englishman, for some of his strong and coarse expressions, and a want of official information as to many facts, it is not a bad thing." The "many facts" were, of course, the action of Monroe, and the supposed action of Morris in Paris, but not even to one so intimate as Stuart are these disclosed.
"It was long believed that Paine had returned to America with his friend James Monroe, and the lovers of freedom [there] congratulated themselves on being able to embrace that illustrious champion of the Rights of Man. Their hopes have been frustrated. We know positively that Thomas Paine is still living in France. The partizans of the late presidency [in America] also know it well, yet they have spread a rumor that after actually arriving he found his (really popular) principles no longer the order of the day, and thought best to re-embark.
"The English journals, while repeating this idle rumor, observed that it was unfounded, and that Paine had not left France. Some French journals have copied these London paragraphs, but without comments; so that at the very moment when Thomas Paine's Letter on the 18th. Fructidor is published, La Clef du Cabinet says that this citizen is suffering unpleasantness in America."
Paine had intended to return with Monroe, in the spring of 1797, but, suspecting the Captain and a British cruiser in the distance, returned from Havre to Paris. The packet was indeed searched by the cruiser for Paine, and, had he been captured, England would have executed the sentence pronounced by Robespierre to please Washington.
MEMORIAL ADDRESSED TO JAMES MONROE,
MINISTER FROM THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO THE FRENCH REPUBLIC.
Prison of the Luxembourg, Sept. 10th, 1794.
I address this memorial to you, in consequence of a letter I received from a friend, 18 Fructidor (September 4th,) in which he says, "Mr. Monroe has told me, that he has no orders [meaning from the American government] respecting you; but I am sure he will leave nothing undone to liberate you; but, from what I can learn, from all the late Americans, you are not considered either by the Government, or by the individuals, as an American citizen. You have been made a french Citizen, which you have accepted, and you have further made yourself a servant of the french Republic; and, therefore, it would be out of character for an American Minister to interfere in their internal concerns. You must therefore either be liberated out of Compliment to America, or stand your trial, which you have a right to demand."
This information was so unexpected by me, that I am at a loss how to answer it. I know not on what principle it originates; whether from an idea that I had voluntarily abandoned my Citizenship of America for that of France, or from any article of the American Constitution applied to me. The first is untrue with respect to any intention on my part; and the second is without foundation, as I shall shew in the course of this memorial.
The idea of conferring honor of Citizenship upon foreigners, who had distinguished themselves in propagating the principles of liberty and humanity, in opposition to despotism, war, and bloodshed, was first proposed by me to La Fayette, at the commencement of the french revolution, when his heart appeared to be warmed with those principles. My motive in making this proposal, was to render the people of different nations more fraternal than they had been, or then were. I observed that almost every branch of Science had possessed itself of the exercise of this right, so far as it regarded its own institution. Most of the Academies and Societies in Europe, and also those of America, conferred the rank of honorary member, upon foreigners eminent in knowledge, and made them, in fact, citizens of their literary or scientific republic, without affecting or anyways diminishing their rights of citizenship in their own country or in other societies: and why the Science of Government should not have the same advantage, or why the people of one nation should not, by their representatives, exercise the right of conferring the honor of Citizenship upon individuals eminent in another nation, without affecting their rights of citizenship, is a problem yet to be solved.
I now proceed to remark on that part of the letter, in which the writer says, that, from what he can learn from all the late Americans, I am not considered in America, either by the Government or by the individuals, as an American citizen.
In the first place I wish to ask, what is here meant by the Government of America? The members who compose the Government are only individuals, when in conversation, and who, most probably, hold very different opinions upon the subject. Have Congress as a body made any declaration respecting me, that they now no longer consider me as a citizen? If they have not, anything they otherwise say is no more than the opinion of individuals, and consequently is not legal authority, nor anyways sufficient authority to deprive any man of his Citizenship. Besides, whether a man has forfeited his rights of Citizenship, is a question not determinable by Congress, but by a Court of Judicature and a Jury; and must depend upon evidence, and the application of some law or article of the Constitution to the case. No such proceeding has yet been had, and consequently I remain a Citizen until it be had, be that decision what it may; for there can be no such thing as a suspension of rights in the interim.
I am very well aware, and always was, of the article of the Constitution which says, as nearly as I can recollect the words, that "any citizen of the United States, who shall accept any title, place, or office, from any foreign king, prince, or state, shall forfeit and lose his right of Citizenship of the United States."
Had the Article said, that any citizen of the United States, who shall be a member of any foreign convention, for the purpose of forming a free constitution, shall forfeit and lose the right of citizenship of the United States, the article had been directly applicable to me; but the idea of such an article never could have entered the mind of the American Convention, and the present article is altogether foreign to the case with respect to me. It supposes a Government in active existence, and not a Government dissolved; and it supposes a citizen of America accepting titles and offices under that Government, and not a citizen of America who gives his assistance in a Convention chosen by the people, for the purpose of forming a Government de nouveau founded on their authority.
The late Constitution and Government of France was dissolved the 10th of August, 1792. The National legislative Assembly then in being, supposed itself without sufficient authority to continue its sittings, and it proposed to the departments to elect not another legislative Assembly, but a Convention for the express purpose of forming a new Constitution. When the Assembly were discoursing on this matter, some of the members said, that they wished to gain all the assistance possible upon the subject of free constitutions; and expressed a wish to elect and invite foreigners of any Nation to the Convention, who had distinguished themselves in defending, explaining, and propagating the principles of liberty. It was on this occasion that my name was mentioned in the Assembly. (I was then in England.)
1 In the American pamphlet a footnote, probably added by Bache, here says: "Even this article does not exist in the manner here stated." It is a pity Paine did not have in his prison the article, which says: "No person holding any office of profit or trust under them [the United States] shall, without the consent of Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign State."—Editor.
After this, a deputation from a body of the french people, in order to remove any objection that might be made against my assisting at the proposed Convention, requested the Assembly, as their representatives, to give me the title of French Citizen; after which, I was elected a member of the Convention, in four different departments, as is already known.(1)
The case, therefore, is, that I accepted nothing from any king, prince, or state, nor from any Government: for France was without any Government, except what arose from common consent, and the necessity of the case. Neither did I make myself a servant of the french Republic, as the letter alluded to expresses; for at that time France was not a republic, not even in name. She was altogether a people in a state of revolution.
It was not until the Convention met that France was declared a republic, and monarchy abolished; soon after which a committee was elected, of which I was a member,(2) to form a Constitution, which was presented to the Convention [and read by Condorcet, who was also a member] the 15th and 16th of February following, but was not to be taken into consideration till after the expiration of two months,(3) and if approved of by the Convention, was then to be referred to the people for their acceptance, with such additions or amendments as the Convention should make.
1 The deputation referred to was described as the "Commission Extraordinaire," in whose name M. Guadet moved that the title of French Citizen be conferred on Priestley, Paine, Bentham, Wilberforce, Clarkson, Mackintosh, David Williams, Cormelle, Paw, Pestalozzi, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Klopstock, Koscinsko, Gorani, Campe, Anacharsis Clootz, Gilleers. This was on August 26, and Paine was elected by Calais on September 6,1792; and in the same week by Oise, Somme, and Puy-de-Dome.—Editor.
2 Sieves, Paine, Brissot, Petion, Vergniaud, Gensonne, Barere, Danton, Condorcet.—Editor.
3 The remainder of this sentence is replaced in the American pamphlet by the following: "The disorders and the revolutionary government that took place after this put a stop to any further progress upon the case."—Editor.
In thus employing myself upon the formation of a Constitution, I certainly did nothing inconsistent with the American Constitution. I took no oath of allegiance to France, or any other oath whatever. I considered the Citizenship they had presented me with as an honorary mark of respect paid to me not only as a friend to liberty, but as an American Citizen. My acceptance of that, or of the deputyship, not conferred on me by any king, prince, or state, but by a people in a state of revolution and contending for liberty, required no transfer of my allegiance or of my citizenship from America to France. There I was a real citizen, paying Taxes; here, I was a voluntary friend, employing myself on a temporary service. Every American in Paris knew that it was my constant intention to return to America, as soon as a constitution should be established, and that I anxiously waited for that event.
I know not what opinions have been circulated in America. It may have been supposed there that I had voluntarily and intentionally abandoned America, and that my citizenship had ceased by my own choice. I can easily [believe] there are those in that country who would take such a proceeding on my part somewhat in disgust. The idea of forsaking old friendships for new acquaintances is not agreeable. I am a little warranted in making this supposition by a letter I received some time ago from the wife of one of the Georgia delegates in which she says "Your friends on this side the water cannot be reconciled to the idea of your abandoning America."
I have never abandoned her in thought, word or deed; and I feel it incumbent upon me to give this assurance to the friends I have in that country and with whom I have always intended and am determined, if the possibility exists, to close the scene of my life. It is there that I have made myself a home. It is there that I have given the services of my best days. America never saw me flinch from her cause in the most gloomy and perilous of her situations; and I know there are those in that country who will not flinch from me. If I have enemies (and every man has some) I leave them to the enjoyment of their ingratitude.*
* I subjoin in a note, for the sake of wasting the solitude of a prison, the answer that I gave to the part of the letter above mentioned. It is not inapplacable to the subject of this Memorial; but it contain! somewhat of a melancholy idea, a little predictive, that I hope is not becoming true so soon.
It is somewhat extraordinary that the idea of my not being a citizen of America should have arisen only at the time that I am imprisoned in France because, or on the pretence that, I am a foreigner. The case involves a strange contradiction of ideas. None of the Americans who came to France whilst I was in liberty had conceived any such idea or circulated any such opinion; and why it should arise now is a matter yet to be explained. However discordant the late American Minister G. M. [Gouverneur Morris] and the late French Committee of Public Safety were, it suited the purpose of both that I should be continued in arrestation. The former wished to prevent my return to America, that I should not expose his misconduct; and the latter, lest I should publish to the world the history of its wickedness. Whilst that Minister and the Committee continued I had no expectation of liberty. I speak here of the Committee of which Robespierre was member.(1)
"You touch me on a very tender point when you say that my friends on your side the water cannot be reconciled to the idea of my abandoning America. They are right. I had rather see my horse Button eating the grass of Borden-Town or Morrisania than see all the pomp and show of Europe.
"A thousand years hence (for I must indulge a few thoughts) perhaps in less, America may be what Europe now is. The innocence of her character, that won the hearts of all nations in her favour, may sound like a romance and her inimitable virtue as if it had never been. The ruin of that liberty which thousands bled for or struggled to obtain may just furnish materials for a village tale or extort a sigh from rustic sensibility, whilst the fashionable of that day, enveloped in dissipation, shall deride the principle and deny the fact.
"When we contemplate the fall of Empires and the extinction of the nations of the Ancient World, we see but little to excite our regret than the mouldering ruins of pompous palaces, magnificent museums, lofty pyramids and walls and towers of the most costly workmanship; but when the Empire of America shall fall, the subject for contemplative sorrow will be infinitely greater than crumbling brass and marble can inspire. It will not then be said, here stood a temple of vast antiquity; here rose a babel of invisible height; or there a palace of sumptuous extravagance; but here, Ah, painful thought! the noblest work of human wisdom, the grandest scene of human glory, the fair cause of Freedom rose and fell. Read this, and then ask if I forget America."—Author.
1 This letter, quoted also in Paine's Letter to Washington, was written from London, Jan. 6, 1789, to the wife of Col. Few, nee Kate Nicholson. It is given in full in my "Life of Paine," i., p. 247.—Editor.
THE MEMORIAL TO MONROE.
I ever must deny, that the article of the American constitution already mentioned, can be applied either verbally, intentionally, or constructively, to me. It undoubtedly was the intention of the Convention that framed it, to preserve the purity of the American republic from being debased by foreign and foppish customs; but it never could be its intention to act against the principles of liberty, by forbidding its citizens to assist in promoting those principles in foreign Countries; neither could it be its intention to act against the principles of gratitude.(1) France had aided America in the establishment of her revolution, when invaded and oppressed by England and her auxiliaries. France in her turn was invaded and oppressed by a combination of foreign despots. In this situation, I conceived it an act of gratitude in me, as a citizen of America, to render her in return the best services I could perform. I came to France (for I was in England when I received the invitation) not to enjoy ease, emoluments, and foppish honours, as the article supposes; but to encounter difficulties and dangers in defence of liberty; and I much question whether those who now malignantly seek (for some I believe do) to turn this to my injury, would have had courage to have done the same thing. I am sure Gouverneur Morris would not. He told me the second day after my arrival, (in Paris,) that the Austrians and Prussians, who were then at Verdun, would be in Paris in a fortnight. I have no idea, said he, that seventy thousand disciplined troops can be stopped in their march by any power in France.
1 This and the two preceding paragraphs, including the footnote, are entirely omitted from the American pamphlet. It will be seen that Paine had now a suspicion of the conspiracy between Gouverneur Morris and those by whom he was imprisoned. Soon after his imprisonment he had applied to Morris, who replied that he had reclaimed him, and enclosed the letter of Deforgues quoted in my Introduction to this chapter, of course withholding his own letter to the Minister. Paine answered (Feb. 14, 1793): "You must not leave me in the situation in which this letter places me. You know I do not deserve it, and you see the unpleasant situation in which I am thrown. I have made an answer to the Minister's letter, which I wish you to make ground of a reply to him. They have nothing against me—except that they do not choose I should lie in a state of freedom to write my mind freely upon things I have seen. Though you and I are not on terms of the best harmony, I apply to you as the Minister of America, and you may add to that service whatever you think my integrity deserves. At any rate I expect you to make Congress acquainted with my situation, and to send them copies of the letters that have passed on the subject. A reply to the Minister's letter is absolutely necessary, were it only to continue the reclamation. Otherwise your silence will be a sort of consent to his observations." Deforgues' "observations" having been dictated by Morris himself, no reply was sent to him, and no word to Congress.—Editor.
2 In the pamphlet this last clause of the sentence is omitted.—Editor..
Besides the reasons I have already given for accepting the invitations to the Convention, I had another that has reference particularly to America, and which I mentioned to Mr. Pinckney the night before I left London to come to Paris: "That it was to the interest of America that the system of European governments should be changed and placed on the same principle with her own." Mr. Pinckney agreed fully in the same opinion. I have done my part towards it.(1)
It is certain that governments upon similar systems agree better together than those that are founded on principles discordant with each other; and the same rule holds good with respect to the people living under them. In the latter case they offend each other by pity, or by reproach; and the discordancy carries itself to matters of commerce. I am not an ambitious man, but perhaps I have been an ambitious American. I have wished to see America the Mother Church of government, and I have done my utmost to exalt her character and her condition.
1 In the American pamphlet the name of Pinckney (American Minister in England) is left blank in this paragraph, and the two concluding sentences are omitted from both the French and American pamphlets.—Editor.,
I have now stated sufficient matter, to shew that the Article in question is not applicable to me; and that any such application to my injury, as well in circumstances as in Rights, is contrary both to the letter and intention of that Article, and is illegal and unconstitutional. Neither do I believe that any Jury in America, when they are informed of the whole of the case, would give a verdict to deprive me of my Rights upon that Article. The citizens of America, I believe, are not very fond of permitting forced and indirect explanations to be put upon matters of this kind. I know not what were the merits of the case with respect to the person who was prosecuted for acting as prize master to a french privateer, but I know that the jury gave a verdict against the prosecution. The Rights I have acquired are dear to me. They have been acquired by honourable means, and by dangerous service in the worst of times, and I cannot passively permit them to be wrested from me. I conceive it my duty to defend them, as the case involves a constitutional and public question, which is, how far the power of the federal government (1) extends, in depriving any citizen of his Rights of Citizenship, or of suspending them.
That the explanation of National Treaties belongs to Congress is strictly constitutional; but not the explanation of the Constitution itself, any more than the explanation of Law in the case of individual citizens. These are altogether Judiciary questions. It is, however, worth observing, that Congress, in explaining the Article of the Treaty with respect to french prizes and french privateers, confined itself strictly to the letter of the Article. Let them explain the Article of the Constitution with respect to me in the same manner, and the decision, did it appertain to them, could not deprive me of my Rights of Citizenship, or suspend them, for I have accepted nothing from any king, prince, state, or Government.
You will please to observe, that I speak as if the federal Government had made some declaration upon the subject of my Citizenship; whereas the fact is otherwise; and your saying that you have no order respecting me is a proof of it. Those therefore who propagate the report of my not being considered as a Citizen of America by Government, do it to the prolongation of my imprisonment, and without authority; for Congress, as a government, has neither decided upon it, nor yet taken the matter into consideration; and I request you to caution such persons against spreading such reports. But be these matters as they may, I cannot have a doubt that you find and feel the case very different, since you have heard what I have to say, and known what my situation is [better] than you did before your arrival.
1 In the pamphlet occurs here a significant parenthesis by Bache: "it should have been said in this case, how far the Executive."—Editor..
But it was not the Americans only, but the Convention also, that knew what my intentions were upon that subject. In my last discourse delivered at the Tribune of the Convention, January 19,1793, on the motion for suspending the execution of Louis 16th, I said (the Deputy Bancal read the translation in French): "It unfortunately happens that the person who is the subject of the present discussion, is considered by the Americans as having been the friend of their revolution. His execution will be an affliction to them, and it is in your power not to wound the feelings of your ally. Could I speak the french language I would descend to your bar, and in their name become your petitioner to respite the execution of the sentence/"—"As the convention was elected for the express purpose of forming a Constitution, its continuance cannot be longer than four or five months more at furthest; and if, after my return to America, I should employ myself in writing the history of the french Revolution, I had rather record a thousand errors on the side of mercy, than be obliged to tell one act of severe Justice."—"Ah Citizens! give not the tyrant of England the triumph of seeing the man perish on a scaffold who had aided my much-loved America."
Does this look as if I had abandoned America? But if she abandons me in the situation I am in, to gratify the enemies of humanity, let that disgrace be to herself. But I know the people of America better than to believe it,(1) tho' I undertake not to answer for every individual.
When this discourse was pronounced, Marat launched himself into the middle of the hall and said that "I voted against the punishment of death because I was a quaker." I replied that "I voted against it both morally and politically."
1 In the French pamphlet: "pour jamais lui preter du tels sentiments."
I certainly went a great way, considering the rage of the times, in endeavouring to prevent that execution. I had many reasons for so doing. I judged, and events have shewn that I judged rightly, that if they once began shedding blood, there was no knowing where it would end; and as to what the world might call honour the execution would appear like a nation killing a mouse; and in a political view, would serve to transfer the hereditary claim to some more formidable Enemy. The man could do no more mischief; and that which he had done was not only from the vice of his education, but was as much the fault of the Nation in restoring him after he had absconded June 21st, 1791, as it was his. I made the proposal for imprisonment until the end of the war and perpetual banishment after the war, instead of the punishment of death. Upwards of three hundred members voted for that proposal. The sentence for absolute death (for some members had voted the punishment of death conditionally) was carried by a majority of twenty-five out of more than seven hundred.
I return from this digression to the proper subject of my memorial.(1)
1 This and the preceding five paragraphs, and five following the nest, are omitted from the American pamphlet.— Editor..
Painful as the want of liberty may be, it is a consolation to me to believe, that my imprisonment proves to the world, that I had no share in the murderous system that then reigned. That I was an enemy to it, both morally and politically, is known to all who had any knowledge of me; and could I have written french as well as I can English, I would publicly have exposed its wickedness and shewn the ruin with which it was pregnant. They who have esteemed me on former occasions, whether in America or in Europe will, I know, feel no cause to abate that esteem, when they reflect, that imprisonment with preservation of character is preferable to liberty with disgrace.
I here close my Memorial and proceed to offer you a proposal that appears to me suited to all the circumstances of the case; which is, that you reclaim me conditionally, until the opinion of Congress can be obtained on the subject of my citizenship of America; and that I remain in liberty under your protection during that time.
I found this proposal upon the following grounds.
First, you say you have no orders respecting me; consequently, you have no orders not to reclaim me; and in this case you are left discretionary judge whether to reclaim or not. My proposal therefore unites a consideration of your situation with my own.
Secondly, I am put in arrestation because I am a foreigner. It is therefore necessary to determine to what country I belong. The right of determining this question cannot appertain exclusively to the Committee of Public Safety or General Surety; because I appeal to the Minister of the United States, and show that my citizenship of that country is good and valid, referring at the same time, thro' the agency of the Minister, my claim of right to the opinion of Congress. It being a matter between two Governments.
Thirdly. France does not claim me fora citizen; neither do I set up any claim of citizenship in France. The question is simply, whether I am or am not a citizen of America. I am imprisoned here on the decree for imprisoning foreigners, because, say they, I was born in England. I say in answer that, though born in England, I am not a subject of the English Government any more than any other American who was born, as they all were, under the same Government, or than the Citizens of France are subjects of the French Monarchy under which they were born. I have twice taken the oath of abjuration to the British King and Government and of Allegiance to America,—once as a citizen of the State of Pennsylvania in 1776, and again before Congress, administered to me by the President, Mr. Hancock, when I was appointed Secretary in the Office of Foreign Affairs in 1777.
The letter before quoted in the first page of this memorial, says, "It would be out of character for an American minister to interfere in the internal affairs of France." This goes on the idea that I am a citizen of France, and a member of the Convention, which is not the fact. The Convention have declared me to be a foreigner; and consequently the citizenship and the election are null and void.(1) It also has the appearance of a Decision, that the article of the Constitution, respecting grants made to American Citizens by foreign kings, princes, or states, is applicable to me; which is the very point in question, and against the application of which I contend. I state evidence to the Minister, to shew that I am not within the letter or meaning of that Article; that it cannot operate against me; and I apply to him for the protection that I conceive I have a right to ask and to receive. The internal affairs of France are out of the question with respect to my application or his interference. I ask it not as a citizen of France, for I am not one: I ask it not as a member of the Convention, for I am not one; both these, as before said, have been rendered null and void; I ask it not as a man against whom there is any accusation, for there is none; I ask it not as an exile from America, whose liberties I have honourably and generously contributed to establish; I ask it as a Citizen of America, deprived of his liberty in France, under the plea of being a foreigner; and I ask it because I conceive I am entitled to it, upon every principle of Constitutional Justice and National honour.(2)
1 In the pamphlet: "The Convention included me in the vote for dismissing foreigners from the Convention, and the Committees imprisoned me as a foreigner."—Editor.
2 All previous editions of the pamphlet end with this word.—Editor.
But tho' I thus positively assert my claim because I believe I have a right to do so, it is perhaps most eligible, in the present situation of things, to put that claim upon the footing I have already mentioned; that is, that the Minister reclaims me conditionally until the opinion of Congress can be obtained on the subject of my citizenship of America, and that I remain in liberty under the protection of the Minister during that interval.
N. B. I should have added that as Gouverneur Morris could not inform Congress of the cause of my arrestation, as he knew it not himself, it is to be supposed that Congress was not enough acquainted with the case to give any directions respecting me when you came away.
Letters, hitherto unpublished, written by Paine to Monroe before his release on November 4., 1794.
1. Luxembourg Mem Vendemaire, Old Style Oct 4th 1794
Dear Sir: I thank you for your very friendly and affectionate letter of the 18th September which I did not receive till this morning.(1) It has relieved my mind from a load of disquietude. You will easily suppose that if the information I received had been exact, my situation was without hope. I had in that case neither section, department nor Country, to reclaim me; but that is not all, I felt a poignancy of grief, in having the least reason to suppose that America had so soon forgotten me who had never forgotten her.
Mr. Labonadaire, in a note of yesterday, directed me to write to the Convention. As I suppose this measure has been taken in concert with you, I have requested him to shew you the letter, of which he will make a translation to accompany the original.
(I cannot see what motive can induce them to keep me in prison. It will gratify the English Government and afflict the friends I have in America. The supporters of the system of Terror might apprehend that if I was in liberty and in America I should publish the history of their crimes, but the present persons who have overset that immoral System ought to have no such apprehension. On the contrary, they ought to consider me as one of themselves, at least as one of their friends. Had I been an insignificant character I had not been in arrestation. It was the literary and philosophical reputation I had gained, in the world, that made them my Enemies; and I am the victim of the principles, and if I may be permitted to say it, of the talents, that procured me the esteem of America. My character is the secret of my arrestation.)
1 Printed in the letter to Washington, chap. XXII. The delay of sixteen days in Monroe's letter was probably due to the manouvres of Paine's enemies on the Committee of Public Safety. He was released only after their removal from the Committee, and the departure of Gouverneur Morris.— Editor.,
If the letter I have written be not covered by other authority than my own it will have no effect, for they already know all that I can say. On what ground do they pretend to deprive America of the service of any of her citizens without assigning a cause, or only the flimsy one of my being born in England? Gates, were he here, might be arrested on the same pretence, and he and Burgoyne be confounded together.
It is difficult for me to give an opinion, but among other things that occur to me, I think that if you were to say that, as it will be necessary to you to inform the Government of America of my situation, you require an explanation with the Committee upon that subject; that you are induced to make this proposal not only out of esteem for the character of the person who is the personal object of it, but because you know that his arrestation will distress the Americans, and the more so as it will appear to them to be contrary to their ideas of civil and national justice, it might perhaps have some effect. If the Committee [of Public Safety] will do nothing, it will be necessary to bring this matter openly before the Convention, for I do most sincerely assure you, from the observations that I hear, and I suppose the same are made in other places, that the character of America lies under some reproach. All the world knows that I have served her, and they see that I am still in prison; and you know that when people can form a conclusion upon a simple fact, they trouble not themselves about reasons. I had rather that America cleared herself of all suspicion of ingratitude, though I were to be the victim.
You advise me to have patience, but I am fully persuaded that the longer I continue in prison the more difficult will be my liberation. There are two reasons for this: the one is that the present Committee, by continuing so long my imprisonment, will naturally suppose that my mind will be soured against them, as it was against those who put me in, and they will continue my imprisonment from the same apprehensions as the former Committee did; the other reason is, that it is now about two months since your arrival, and I am still in prison. They will explain this into an indifference upon my fate that will encourage them to continue my imprisonment. When I hear some people say that it is the Government of America that now keeps me in prison by not reclaiming me, and then pour forth a volley of execrations against her, I know not how to answer them otherwise than by a direct denial which they do not appear to believe. You will easily conclude that whatever relates to imprisonments and liberations makes a topic of prison conversation; and as I am now the oldest inhabitant within these walls, except two or three, I am often the subject of their remarks, because from the continuance of my imprisonment they auger ill to themselves. You see I write you every thing that occurs to me, and I conclude with thanking you again for your very friendly and affectionate letter, and am with great respect,
(To day is the anniversary of the action at German Town. [October 4, 1777.] Your letter has enabled me to contradict the observations before mentioned.)