2. Oct 13, 1794 Dear Sir: On the 28th of this Month (October) I shall have suffered ten months imprisonment, to the dishonour of America as well as of myself, and I speak to you very honestly when I say that my patience is exhausted. It is only my actual liberation that can make me believe it. Had any person told me that I should remain in prison two months after the arrival of a new Minister, I should have supposed that he meant to affront me as an American. By the friendship and sympathy you express in your letter you seem to consider my imprisonment as having connection only with myself, but I am certain that the inferences that follow from it have relation also to the National character of America, I already feel this in myself, for I no longer speak with pride of being a citizen of that country. Is it possible Sir that I should, when I am suffering unjust imprisonment under the very eye of her new Minister?
While there was no Minister here (for I consider Morris as none) nobody wondered at my imprisonment, but now everybody wonders. The continuance of it under a change of diplomatic circumstances, subjects me to the suspicion of having merited it, and also to the suspicion of having forfeited my reputation with America; and it subjects her at the same time to the suspicion of ingratitude, or to the reproach of wanting national or diplomatic importance. The language that some Americans have held of my not being considered as an American citizen, tho' contradicted by yourself, proceeds, I believe, from no other motive, than the shame and dishonour they feel at the imprisonment of a fellow-citizen, and they adopt this apology, at my expence, to get rid of that disgrace. Is it not enough that I suffer imprisonment, but my mind also must be wounded and tortured with subjects of this kind? Did I reason from personal considerations only, independent of principles and the pride of having practiced those principles honourably, I should be tempted to curse the day I knew America. By contributing to her liberty I have lost my own, and yet her Government beholds my situation in silence. Wonder not, Sir, at the ideas I express or the language in which I express them. If I have a heart to feel for others I can feel also for myself, and if I have anxiety for my own honour, I have it also for a country whose suffering infancy I endeavoured to nourish and to which I have been enthusiastically attached. As to patience I have practiced it long—as long as it was honorable to do so, and when it goes beyond that point it becomes meanness.
I am inclined to believe that you have attended to my imprisonment more as a friend than as a Minister. As a friend I thank you for your affectionate attachment. As a Minister you have to look beyond me to the honour and reputation of your Government; and your Countrymen, who have accustomed themselves to consider any subject in one line of thinking only, more especially if it makes a strong [impression] upon them, as I believe my situation has made upon you, do not immediately see the matters that have relation to it in another line; and it is to bring these two into one point that I offer you these observations. A citizen and his country, in a case like mine, are so closely connected that the case of one is the case of both.
When you first arrived the path you had to pursue with respect to my liberation was simple. I was imprisoned as a foreigner; you knew that foreigner to be a citizen of America, and you knew also his character, and as such you should immediately have reclaimed him. You could lose nothing by taking strong ground, but you might lose much by taking an inferior one; but instead of this, which I conceive would have been the right line of acting, you left me in their hands on the loose intimation that my liberation would take place without your direct interference, and you strongly recommended it to me to wait the issue. This is more than seven weeks ago and I am still in prison. I suspect these people are trifling with you, and if they once believe they can do that, you will not easily get any business done except what they wish to have done.
When I take a review of my whole situation—my circumstances ruined, my health half destroyed, my person imprisoned, and the prospect of imprisonment still staring me in the face, can you wonder at the agony of my feelings? You lie down in safety and rise to plenty; it is otherwise with me; I am deprived of more than half the common necessaries of life; I have not a candle to burn and cannot get one. Fuel can be procured only in small quantities and that with great difficulty and very dear, and to add to the rest, I am fallen into a relapse and am again on the sick list. Did you feel the whole force of what I suffer, and the disgrace put upon America by this injustice done to one of her best and most affectionate citizens, you would not, either as a friend or Minister, rest a day till you had procured my liberation. It is the work of two or three hours when you set heartily about it, that is, when you demand me as an American citizen, or propose a conference with the Committee upon that subject; or you may make it the work of a twelve-month and not succeed. I know these people better than you do.
You desire me to believe that "you are placed here on a difficult Theatre with many important objects to attend to, and with but few to consult with, and that it becomes you in pursuit of these to regulate your conduct with respect to each, as to manner and time, as will in your judgment be best calculated to accomplish the whole." As I know not what these objects are I can say nothing to that point. But I have always been taught to believe that the liberty of a Citizen was the first object of all free Governments, and that it ought not to give preference to, or be blended with, any other. It is that public object that all the world can see, and which obtains an influence upon public opinion more than any other. This is not the case with the objects you allude to. But be those objects what they may, can you suppose you will accomplish them the easier by holding me in the back-ground, or making me only an accident in the negotiation? Those with whom you confer will conclude from thence that you do not feel yourself very strong upon those points, and that you politically keep me out of sight in the meantime to make your approach the easier.
There is one part in your letter that is equally as proper should be communicated to the Committee as to me, and which I conceive you are under some diplomatic obligation to do. It is that part which you conclude by saying that "to the welfare of Thomas Paine the Americans are not and cannot be indifferent." As it is impossible the Americans can preserve their esteem for me and for my oppressors at the same time, the injustice to me strikes at the popular part of the Treaty of Alliance. If it be the wish of the Committee to reduce the treaty to a mere skeleton of Government forms, they are taking the right method to do it, and it is not improbable they will blame you afterwards for not in-forming them upon the subject. The disposition to retort has been so notorious here, that you ought to be guarded against it at all points.
You say in your letter that you doubt whether the gentleman who informed me of the language held by some Americans respecting my citizenship of America conveyed even his own ideas clearly upon the subject.(1) I know not how this may be, but I believe he told me the truth. I received a letter a few days ago from a friend and former comrade of mine in which he tells me, that all the Americans he converses with, say, that I should have been in liberty long ago if the Minister could have reclaimed me as an American citizen. When I compare this with the counter-declarations in your letter I can explain the case no otherwise than I have already done, that it is an apology to get rid of the shame and dishonour they feel at the imprisonment of an American citizen, and because they are not willing it should be supposed there is want of influence in the American Embassy. But they ought to see that this language is injurious to me.
On the 2d of this month Vendemaire I received a line from Mr. Beresford in which he tells me I shall be in liberty in two or three days, and that he has this from good authority. On the 12th I received a note from Mr. Labonadaire, written at the Bureau of the Concierge, in which he tells me of the interest you take in procuring my liberation, and that after the steps that had been already taken that I ought to write to the Convention to demand my liberty purely and simply as a citizen of the United States of America. He advised me to send the letter to him, and he would translate it. I sent the letter inclosing at the same time a letter to you. I have heard nothing since of the letter to the Convention. On the 17th I received a letter from my former comrade Vanhuele, in which he says "I am just come from Mr. Russell who had yesterday a conversation with your Minister and your liberation is certain—you will be in liberty to-morrow." Vanhuele also adds, "I find the advice of Mr. Labonadaire good, for tho' you have some enemies in the Convention, the strongest and best part are in your favour." But the case is, and I felt it whilst I was writing the letter to the Convention, that there is an awkwardness in my appearing, you being present; for every foreigner should apply thro' his Minister, or rather his Minister for him.
1 The letter of Peter Whiteside, quoted at the beginning of the Memorial. See introduction to the Memorial. It would seem from this whole letter that it was not known by Americans in Paris that Monroe had been kept ont of his office by Morris for nearly a month after his arrival in Paris.—Editor.
When I thus see day after day and month after month, and promise after promise, pass away without effect, what can I conclude but that either the Committees are secretly determined not to let me go, or that the measures you take are not pursued with the vigor necessary to give them effect; or that the American National character is without sufficient importance in the French Republic? The latter will be gratifying to the English Government. In short, Sir, the case is now arrived to that crisis, that for the sake of your own reputation as a Minister you ought to require a positive answer from the Committee. As to myself, it is more agreeable to me now to contemplate an honourable destruction, and to perish in the act of protesting against the injustice I suffer, and to caution the people of America against confiding too much in the Treaty of Alliance, violated as it has been in every principle, and in my imprisonment though an American Citizen, than remain in the wretched condition I am. I am no longer of any use to the world or to myself.
There was a time when I beheld the Revolution of the 10th. Thermidor [the fall of Robespierre] with enthusiasm. It was the first news my comrade Vanhuele communicated to me during my illness, and it contributed to my recovery. But there is still something rotten at the Center, and the Enemies that I have, though perhaps not numerous, are more active than my friends. If I form a wrong opinion of men or things it is to you I must look to set me right. You are in possession of the secret. I know nothing of it. But that I may be guarded against as many wants as possible I shall set about writing a memorial to Congress, another to the State of Pennsylvania, and an address to the people of America; but it will be difficult for me to finish these until I know from yourself what applications you have made for my liberation, and what answers you have received.
Ah, Sir, you would have gotten a load of trouble and difficulties off your hands that I fear will multiply every day, had you made it a point to procure my liberty when you first arrived, and not left me floating on the promises of men whom you did not know. You were then a new character. You had come in consequence of their own request that Morris should be recalled; and had you then, before you opened any subject of negociation that might arise into controversy, demanded my liberty either as a Civility or as a Right I see not how they could have refused it.
I have already said that after all the promises that have been made I am still in prison. I am in the dark upon all the matters that relate to myself. I know not if it be to the Convention, to the Committee of Public Safety, of General Surety, or to the deputies who come sometimes to the Luxembourg to examine and put persons in liberty, that applications have been made for my liberation. But be it to whom it may, my earnest and pressing request to you as Minister is that you will bring this matter to a conclusion by reclaiming me as an American citizen imprisoned in France under the plea of being a foreigner born in England; that I may know the result, and how to prepare the Memorials I have mentioned, should there be occasion for them. The right of determining who are American citizens can belong only to America. The Convention have declared I am not a French Citizen because she has declared me to be a foreigner, and have by that declaration cancelled and annulled the vote of the former assembly that conferred the Title of Citizen upon Citizens or subjects of other Countries. I should not be honest to you nor to myself were I not to express myself as I have done in this letter, and I confide and request you will accept it in that sense and in no other.
I am, with great respect, your suffering fellow-citizen,
P. S.—If my imprisonment is to continue, and I indulge very little hope to the contrary, I shall be under the absolute necessity of applying to you for a supply of several articles. Every person here have their families or friends upon the spot who make provision for them. This is not the case with me; I have no person I can apply to but the American Minister, and I can have no doubt that if events should prevent my repaying the expence Congress or the State of Pennsylvania will discharge it for me.
To day is 22 Vendemaire Monday October 13, but you will not receive this letter till the 14th. I will send the bearer to you again on the 15th, Wednesday, and I will be obliged to you to send me for the present, three or four candles, a little sugar of any kind, and some soap for shaving; and I should be glad at the same time to receive a line from you and a memorandum of the articles. Were I in your place I would order a Hogshead of Sugar, some boxes of Candles and Soap from America, for they will become still more scarce. Perhaps the best method for you to procure them at present is by applying to the American Consuls at Bordeaux and Havre, and have them up by the diligence.
Dear Sir: As I have not yet received any answer to my last, I have amused myself with writing you the inclosed memoranda. Though you recommend patience to me I cannot but feel very pointedly the uncomfortableness of my situation, and among other reflections that occur to me I cannot think that America receives any credit from the long imprisonment that I suffer. It has the appearance of neglecting her citizens and her friends and of encouraging the insults of foreign nations upon them, and upon her commerce. My imprisonment is as well and perhaps more known in England than in France, and they (the English) will not be intimidated from molesting an American ship when they see that one of her best citizens (for I have a right to call myself so) can be imprisoned in another country at the mere discretion of a Committee, because he is a foreigner.
When you first arrived every body congratulated me that I should soon, if not immediately, be in liberty. Since that time about two hundred have been set free from this prison on the applications of their sections or of individuals—and I am continually hurt by the observations that are made—"that a section in Paris has more influence than America."
It is right that I furnish you with these circumstances. It is the effect of my anxiety that the character of America suffer no reproach; for the world knows that I have acted a generous duty by her. I am the third American that has been imprisoned. Griffiths nine weeks, Haskins about five, and myself eight [months] and yet in prison. With respect to the two former there was then no Minister, for I consider Morris as none; and they were liberated on the applications of the Americans in Paris. As to myself I had rather be publicly and honorably reclaimed, tho' the reclamation was refused, than remain in the uncertain situation that I am. Though my health has suffered my spirits are not broken. I have nothing to fear unless innocence and fortitude be crimes. America, whatever may be my fate, will have no cause to blush for me as a citizen; I hope I shall have none to blush for her as a country. If, my dear Sir, there is any-thing in the perplexity of ideas I have mistaken, only suppose yourself in my situation, and you will easily find an excuse for it. I need not say how much I shall rejoice to pay my respects to you without-side the walls of this prison, and to enquire after my American friends. But I know that nothing can be accomplished here but by unceasing perseverance and application. Yours affectionately.
4. October 20, 1794.
Dear Sir: I recd. your friendly letter of the 26 Vendemaire on the day it was written, and I thank you for communicating to me your opinion upon my case. Ideas serve to beget ideas, and as it is from a review of every thing that can be said upon a subject, or is any ways connected with it, that the best judgment can be formed how to proceed, I present you with such ideas as occur to me. I am sure of one thing, which is that you will give them a patient and attentive perusal.
You say in your letter that "I must be sensible that although I am an American citizen, yet if you interfere in my behalf as the Minister of my country you must demand my liberation only in case there be no charge against me; and that if there is I must be brought to trial previously, since no person in a private character can be exempt from the laws of the country in which he resides."—This is what I have twice attempted to do. I wrote a letter on the 3d Sans Culottodi(1) to the Deputies, members of the Committee of Surety General, who came to the Luxembourg to examine the persons detained. The letter was as follows:—"Citizens Representatives: I offer myself for examination. Justice is due to every Man. It is Justice only that I ask.—Thomas Paine."
As I was not called for examination, nor heard anything in consequence of my letter the first time of sending it, I sent a duplicate of it a few days after. It was carried to them by my good friend and comrade Vanhuele, who was then going in liberty, having been examined the day before. Vanhuele wrote me on the next day and said: "Bourdon de l'Oise [who was one of the examining Deputies] is the most inveterate enemy you can have. The answer he gave me when I presented your letter put me in such a passion with him that I expected I should be sent back again to prison." I then wrote a third letter but had not an opportunity of sending it, as Bourdon did not come any more till after I received Mr. Labonadaire's letter advising me to write to the Convention. The letter was as follows:—"Citizens, I have twice offered myself for examination, and I chose to do this while Bourdon de l'Oise was one of the Commissioners.
1 Festival of Labour, September 19, 1794.—Editor..
This Deputy has said in the Convention that I intrigued with an ancient agent of the Bureau of Foreign Affairs. My examination therefore while he is present will give him an opportunity of proving his charge or of convincing himself of his error. If Bourdon de l'Oise is an honest man he will examine me, but lest he should not I subjoin the following. That which B[ourdon] calls an intrigue was at the request of a member of the former Committee of Salut Public, last August was a twelvemonth. I met the member on the Boulevard. He asked me something in French which I did not understand and we went together to the Bureau of Foreign Affairs which was near at hand. The Agent (Otto, whom you probably knew in America) served as interpreter, The member (it was Barere) then asked me 1st, If I could furnish him with the plan of Constitution I had presented to the Committee of Constitution of which I was member with himself, because, he said, it contained several things which he wished had been adopted: 2dly, He asked me my opinion upon sending Commissioners to the United States of America: 3dly, If fifty or an hundred ship loads of flour could be procured from America. As verbal interpretation was tedious, it was agreed that I should give him my opinion in writing, and that the Agent [Otto] should translate it, which he did. I answered the first question by sending him the plan [of a Constitution] which he still has. To the second, I replied that I thought it would be proper to send Commissioners, because that in Revolutions circumstances change so fast that it was often necessary to send a better supply of information to an Ally than could be communicated by writing; and that Congress had done the same thing during the American War; and I gave him some information that the Commissioners would find useful on their arrival. I answered the third question by sending him a list of American exports two years before, distinguishing the several articles by which he would see that the supply he mentioned could be obtained. I sent him also the plan of Paul Jones, giving it as his, for procuring salt-petre, which was to send a squadron (it did not require a large one) to take possession of the Island of St. Helen's, to keep the English flag flying at the port, that the English East India ships coming from the East Indies, and that ballast with salt-petre, might be induced to enter as usual; And that it would be a considerable time before the English Government could know of what had happened at St. Helen's. See here what Bourdon de l'Oise has called an intrigue.—If it was an intrigue it was between a Committee of Salut Public and myself, for the Agent was no more than the interpreter and translator, and the object of the intrigue was to furnish France with flour and salt-petre."—I suppose Bourdon had heard that the agent and I were seen together talking English, and this was enough for him to found his charge upon.(1)
You next say that "I must likewise be sensible that although I am an American citizen that it is likewise believed there [in America] that I am become a citizen of France, and that in consequence this latter character has so far [illegible] the former as to weaken if not destroy any claim you might have to interpose in my behalf." I am sorry I cannot add any new arguments to those I have already advanced on this part of the subject. But I cannot help asking myself, and I wish you would ask the Committee, if it could possibly be the intention of France to kidnap citizens from America under the pretence of dubbing them with the title of French citizens, and then, after inviting or rather enveigling them into France, make it a pretence for detaining them? If it was, (which I am sure it was not, tho' they now act as if it was) the insult was to America, tho' the injury was to me, and the treachery was to both.
1 The communications of Paine to Barere are given in my "Life of Paine," vol. ii-i PP. 73, 87. Otto was Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs when he acted as interpreter between Paine and Barere. There was never any charge at all made against Paine, as the Archives of France now prove, save that he was a "foreigner." Paine was of coarse ignorant of the conspiracy between Morris and Deforgues which had imprisoned him. Bourdon de l'Oise, one of the most cruel Jacobins and Terrorists, afterwards conspired with Pichegru to overthrow the Republic, and was with him banished (1797) to Sinamari, South America, where he died soon after his arrival.—Editor..
Did they mean to kidnap General Washington, Mr. Madison, and several other Americans whom they dubbed with the same title as well as me? Let any man look at the condition of France when I arrived in it,—invaded by Austrians and Prussians and declared to be in danger,—and then ask if any man who had a home and a country to go to, as I had in America, would have come amongst them from any other motive than of assisting them. If I could possibly have supposed them capable of treachery I certainly would not have trusted myself in their power. Instead therefore of your being unwilling or apprehensive of meeting the question of French citizenship, they ought to be ashamed of advancing it, and this will be the case unless you admit their arguments or objections too passively. It is a case on their part fit only for the continuations of Robespierre to set up. As to the name of French citizen, I never considered it in any other light, so far as regarded myself, than as a token of honorary respect. I never made them any promise nor took any oath of allegiance or of citizenship, nor bound myself by an act or means whatever to the performance of any thing. I acted altogether as a friend invited among them as I supposed on honorable terms. I did not come to join myself to a Government already formed, but to assist in forming one de nouveau, which was afterwards to be submitted to the people whether they would accept it or not, and this any foreigner might do. And strictly speaking there are no citizens before this is a government. They are all of the People. The Americans were not called citizens till after Government was established, and not even then until they had taken the oath of allegiance. This was the case in Pennsylvania. But be this French citizenship more or less, the Convention have swept it away by declaring me to be a foreigner, and imprisoning me as such; and this is a short answer to all those who affect to say or to believe that I am French Citizen. A Citizen without Citizenship is a term non-descript.
After the two preceeding paragraphs you ask—"If it be my wish that you should embark in this controversy (meaning that of reclaiming me) and risque the consequences with respect to myself and the good understanding subsisting between the two countries, or, without relinquishing any point of right, and which might be insisted on in case of extremities, pursue according to your best judgment and with the light before you, the object of my liberation?"
As I believe from the apparent obstinacy of the Committees that circumstances will grow towards the extremity you mention, unless prevented beforehand, I will endeavour to throw into your hands all the lights I can upon the subject.
In the first place, reclamation may mean two distinct things. All the reclamations that are made by the sections in behalf of persons detained as suspect are made on the ground that the persons so detained are patriots, and the reclamation is good against the charge of "suspect" because it proves the contrary. But my situation includes another circumstance. I am imprisoned on the charge (if it can be called one) of being a foreigner born in England. You know that foreigner to be a citizen of the United States of America, and that he has been such since the 4th of July 1776, the political birthday of the United States, and of every American citizen, for before that period all were British subjects, and the States, then provinces, were British dominions.—Your reclamation of me therefore as a citizen of the United States (all other considerations apart) is good against the pretence for imprisoning me, or that pretence is equally good against every American citizen born in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, or Holland, and you know this description of men compose a very great part of the population of the three States of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and make also a part of Congress, and of the State Legislatures.
Every politician ought to know, and every civilian does know, that the Law of Treaty of Alliance, and also that of Amity and Commerce knows no distinction of American Citizens on account of the place of their birth, but recognizes all to be Citizens whom the Constitution and laws of the United States of America recognize as such; and if I recollect rightly there is an article in the Treaty of Commerce particular to this point. The law therefore which they have here, to put all persons in arrestation born in any of the Countries at war with France, is, when applied to Citizens of America born in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, or holland, a violation of the treaties of Alliance and of Commerce, because it assumes to make a distinction of Citizens which those Treaties and the Constitution of America know nothing of. This is a subject that officially comes under your cognizance as Minister, and it would be consistent that you expostulated with them upon the Case. That foolish old man Vadier, who was president of the Convention and of the Committee of Surety general when the Americans then in Paris went to the Bar of the Convention to reclaim me, gave them for answer that my being born in England was cause sufficient for imprisoning me. It happened that at least half those who went up with that address were in the same case with myself.
As to reclamations on the ground of Patriotism it is difficult to know what is to be understood by Patriotism here. There is not a vice, and scarcely a virtue, that has not as the fashion of the moment suited been called by the name of Patriotism. The wretches who composed the revolutionary tribunal of Nantz were the Patriots of that day and the criminals of this. The Jacobins called themselves Patriots of the first order, men up to the height of the circumstances, and they are now considered as an antidote to Patriotism. But if we give to Patriotism a fixed idea consistent with that of a Republic, it would signify a strict adherence to the principles of Moral Justice, to the equality of civil and political Rights, to the System of representative Government, and an opposition to every hereditary claim to govern; and of this species of Patriotism you know my character. But, Sir, there are men on the Committee who have changed their Party but not their principles. Their aim is to hold power as long as possible by preventing the establishment of a Constitution, and these men are and will be my Enemies, and seek to hold me in prison as long as they can. I am too good a Patriot for them. It is not improbable that they have heard of the strange language held by some Americans that I am not considered in America as an American citizen, and they may also have heard say, that you had no orders respecting me, and it is not improbable that they interpret that language and that silence into a connivance at my imprisonment. If they had not some ideas of this kind would they resist so long the civil efforts you make for my liberation, or would they attach so much importance to the imprisonment of an Individual as to risque (as you say to me) the good understanding that exists between the two Countries?You also say that it is impossible for any person to do more than you have done without adopting the other means, meaning that of reclaiming me. How then can you account for the want of success after so many efforts, and such a length of time, upwards of ten weeks, without supposing that they fortify themselves in the interpretation I have just mentioned? I can admit that it was not necessary to give orders, and that it was difficult to give direct orders, for I much question if Morris had informed Congress or the President of the whole of the case, or had sent copies of my letters to him as I had desired him to do. You would find the case here when you came, and you could not fully understand it till you did come, and as Minister you would have authority to act upon it. But as you inform me that you know what the wishes of the President are, you will see also that his reputation is exposed to some risque, admitting there to be ground for the supposition I have made. It will not add to his popularity to have it believed in America, as I am inclined to think the Committee believe here, that he connives at my imprisonment. You say also that it is known to everybody that you wish my liberation. It is, Sir, because they know your wishes that they misinterpret the means you use. They suppose that those mild means arise from a restriction that you cannot use others, or from a consciousness of some defect on my part of which you are unwilling to provoke the enquiry.
But as you ask me if it be my wish that you should embark in this controversy and risque the consequences with respect to myself, I will answer this part of the question by marking out precisely the part I wish you to take. What I mean is a sort of middle line above what you have yet gone, and not up to the full extremity of the case, which will still lie in reserve. It is to write a letter to the Committee that shall in the first place defeat by anticipation all the objections they might make to a simple reclamation, and at the same time make the ground good for that object. But, instead of sending the letter immediately, to invite some of the Committee to your house and to make that invitation the opportunity of shewing them the letter, expressing at the same time a wish that you had done this, from a hope that the business might be settled in an amicable manner without your being forced into an official interference, that would excite the observations of the Enemies of both Countries, and probably interrupt the harmony that subsisted between the two republics. But as I can not convey the ideas I wish you to use by any means so concisely or so well as to suppose myself the writer of the letter I shall adopt this method and you will make use of such parts or such ideas of it as you please if you approve the plan. Here follows the supposed letter:
Citizens: When I first arrived amongst you as Minister from the United States of America I was given to understand that the liberation of Thomas Paine would take place without any official interference on my part. This was the more agreeable to me as it would not only supercede the necessity of that interference, but would leave to yourselves the whole opportunity of doing justice to a man who as far as I have been able to learn has suffered much cruel treatment under what you have denominated the system of Terror. But as I find my expectations have not been fulfilled I am under the official necessity of being more explicit upon the subject than I have hitherto been.
Permit me, in the first place, to observe that as it is impossible for me to suppose that it could have been the intention of France to seduce any citizens of America from their allegiance to their proper country by offering them the title of French citizen, so must I be compelled to believe, that the title of French citizen conferred on Thomas Paine was intended only as a mark of honorary respect towards a man who had so eminently distinguished himself in defence of liberty, and on no occasion more so than in promoting and defending your own revolution. For a proof of this I refer you to his two works entitled Rights of Man. Those works have procured to him an addition of esteem in America, and I am sorry they have been so ill rewarded in France. But be this title of French Citizen more or less, it is now entirely swept away by the vote of the Convention which declares him to be a foreigner, and which supercedes the vote of the Assembly that conferred that title upon him, consequently upon the case superceded with it.
In consequence of this vote of the Convention declaring him to be a foreigner the former Committees have imprisoned him. It is therefore become my official duty to declare to you that the foreigner thus imprisoned is a citizen of the United States of America as fully, as legally, as constitutionally as myself, and that he is moreover one of the principal founders of the American Republic.
I have been informed of a law or decree of the Convention which subjects foreigners born in any of the countries at war with France to arrestation and imprisonment. This law when applied to citizens of America born in England is an infraction of the Treaty of Alliance and of Amity and Commerce, which knows no distinction of American citizens on account of the place of their birth, but recognizes all to be citizens whom the Constitution and laws of America recognize as such. The circumstances under which America has been peopled requires this guard on her Treaties, because the mass of her citizens are composed not of natives only but also of the natives of almost all the countries of Europe who have sought an asylum there from the persecutions they experienced in their own countries. After this intimation you will without doubt see the propriety of modelling that law to the principles of the Treaty, because the law of Treaty in cases where it applies is the governing law to both parties alike, and it cannot be infracted without hazarding the existence of the Treaty.
Of the Patriotism of Thomas Paine I can speak fully, if we agree to give to patriotism a fixed idea consistent with that of a republic. It would then signify a strict adherence to Moral Justice, to the equality of civil and political rights, to the system of representative government, and an opposition to all hereditary claims to govern. Admitting patriotism to consist in these principles, I know of no man who has gone beyond Thomas Paine in promulgating and defending them, and that for almost twenty years past.
I have now spoken to you on the principal matters concerned in the case of Thomas Paine. The title of French citizen which you had enforced upon him, you have since taken away by declaring him to be a foreigner, and consequently this part of the subject ceases of itself. I have declared to you that this foreigner is a citizen of the United States of America, and have assured you of his patriotism.
I cannot help at the same time repeating to you my wish that his liberation had taken place without my being obliged to go thus far into the subject, because it is the mutual interest of both republics to avoid as much as possible all subjects of controversy, especially those from which no possible good can flow. I still hope that you will save me the unpleasant task of proceeding any farther by sending me an order for his liberation, which the injured state of his health absolutely requires. I shall be happy to receive such an order from you and happy in presenting it to him, for to the welfare of Thomas Paine the Americans are not and cannot be indifferent.
This is the sort of letter I wish you to write, for I have no idea that you will succeed by any measures that can, by any kind of construction, be interpreted into a want of confidence or an apprehension of consequences. It is themselves that ought to be apprehensive of consequences if any are to be apprehended. They, I mean the Committees, are not certain that the Convention or the nation would support them in forcing any question to extremity that might interrupt the good understanding subsisting between the two countries; and I know of no question [so likely] to do this as that which involves the rights and liberty of a citizen.
You will please to observe that I have put the case of French citizenship in a point of view that ought not only to preclude, but to make them ashamed to advance any thing upon this subject; and this is better than to have to answer their counter-reclamation afterwards. Either the Citizenship was intended as a token of honorary respect, or it was in-tended to deprive America of a citizen or to seduce him from his allegiance to his proper country. If it was intended as an honour they must act consistently with the principle of honour. But if they make a pretence for detaining me, they convict themselves of the act of seduction. Had America singled out any particular French citizen, complimented him with the title of Citizen of America, which he without suspecting any fraudulent intention might accept, and then after having invited or rather inveigled him into America made his acceptance of that Title a pretence for seducing or forcing him from his allegiance to France, would not France have just cause to be offended at America? And ought not America to have the same right to be offended at France? And will the Committees take upon themselves to answer for the dishonour they bring upon the National Character of their Country? If these arguments are stated beforehand they will prevent the Committees going into the subject of French Citizenship. They must be ashamed of it. But after all the case comes to this, that this French Citizenship appertains no longer to me because the Convention, as I have already said, have swept it away by declaring me to be foreigner, and it is not in the power of the Committees to reverse it. But if I am to be citizen and foreigner, and citizen again, just when and how and for any purpose they please, they take the Government of America into their own hands and make her only a Cypher in their system.
Though these ideas have been long with me they have been more particularly matured by reading your last Communication, and I have many reasons to wish you had opened that Communication sooner. I am best acquainted with the persons you have to deal with and the circumstances of my own case. If you chuse to adopt the letter as it is, I send you a translation for the sake of expediting the business. I have endeavoured to conceive your own manner of expression as well as I could, and the civility of language you would use, but the matter of the letter is essential to me.
If you chuse to confer with some of the members of the Committee at your own house on the subject of the letter it may render the sending it unnecessary; but in either case I must request and press you not to give away to evasion and delay, and that you will fix positively with them that they shall give you an answer in three or four days whether they will liberate me on the representation you have made in the letter, or whether you must be forced to go further into the subject. The state of my health will not admit of delay, and besides the tortured state of my mind wears me down. If they talk of bringing me to trial (and I well know there is no accusation against me and that they can bring none) I certainly summons you as an Evidence to my Character. This you may mention to them either as what I intend to do or what you intend to do voluntarily for me.
I am anxious that you undertake this business without losing time, because if I am not liberated in the course of this decade, I intend, if in case the seventy-one detained deputies are liberated, to follow the same track that they have done, and publish my own case myself.(1) I cannot rest any longer in this state of miserable suspense, be the consequences what they may.
1 Those deputies, imprisoned for having protested against the overthrow of the Girondin government, May 31,1793, when the Convention was invaded and overawed by the armed communes of Paris. These deputies were liberated and recalled to the Convention, December 8, 1794. Paine was invited to resume his seat the day before, by a special act of the Convention, after an eloquent speech by Thibaudeau.— Editor..
Dear Sir: I need not mention to you the happiness I received from the information you sent me by Mr. Beresford. I easily guess the persons you have conversed with on the subject of my liberation—but matters and even promises that pass in conversation are not quite so strictly attended to here as in the Country you come from. I am not, my Dear Sir, impatient from any thing in my disposition, but the state of my health requires liberty and a better air; and besides this, the rules of the prison do not permit me, though I have all the indulgences the Concierge can give, to procure the things necessary to my recovery, which is slow as to strength. I have a tolerable appetite but the allowance of provision is scanty. We are not allowed a knife to cut our victuals with, nor a razor to shave; but they have lately allowed some barbers that are here to shave. The room where I am lodged is a ground floor level with the earth in the garden and floored with brick, and is so wet after every rain that I cannot guard against taking colds that continually cheat my recovery. If you could, without interfering with or deranging the mode proposed for my liberation, inform the Committee that the state of my health requires liberty and air, it would be good ground to hasten my liberation. The length of my imprisonment is also a reason, for I am now almost the oldest inhabitant of this uncomfortable mansion, and I see twenty, thirty and sometimes forty persons a day put in liberty who have not been so long confined as myself. Their liberation is a happiness to me; but I feel sometimes, a little mortification that I am thus left behind. I leave it entirely to you to arrange this matter. The messenger waits. Your's affectionately,
I hope and wish much to see you. I have much to say. I have had the attendance of Dr. Graham (Physician to Genl. O'Hara, who is prisoner here) and of Dr. Makouski, house physician, who has been most exceedingly kind to me. After I am at liberty I shall be glad to introduce him to you.
1 This letter, written in a feeble handwriting, is not dated, but Monroe's endorsement, "2d. Luxembourg," indicates November 2, two days before Paine's liberation.— Editor..
XXII. LETTER TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.
Paris, July 30, 1796.
As censure is but awkwardly softened by apology. I shall offer you no apology for this letter. The eventful crisis to which your double politics have conducted the affairs of your country, requires an investigation uncramped by ceremony.
There was a time when the fame of America, moral and political, stood fair and high in the world. The lustre of her revolution extended itself to every individual; and to be a citizen of America gave a title to respect in Europe. Neither meanness nor ingratitude had been mingled in the composition of her character. Her resistance to the attempted tyranny of England left her unsuspected of the one, and her open acknowledgment of the aid she received from France precluded all suspicion of the other. The Washington of politics had not then appeared.
At the time I left America (April 1787) the Continental Convention, that formed the federal Constitution was on the point of meeting. Since that time new schemes of politics, and new distinctions of parties, have arisen. The term Antifederalist has been applied to all those who combated the defects of that constitution, or opposed the measures of your administration. It was only to the absolute necessity of establishing some federal authority, extending equally over all the States, that an instrument so inconsistent as the present federal Constitution is, obtained a suffrage. I would have voted for it myself, had I been in America, or even for a worse, rather than have had none, provided it contained the means of remedying its defects by the same appeal to the people by which it was to be established. It is always better policy to leave removeable errors to expose themselves, than to hazard too much in contending against them theoretically. I have introduced these observations, not only to mark the general difference between Antifederalist and Anti-constitutionalist, but to preclude the effect, and even the application, of the former of these terms to myself. I declare myself opposed to several matters in the Constitution, particularly to the manner in which what is called the Executive is formed, and to the long duration of the Senate; and if I live to return to America, I will use all my endeavours to have them altered.(*) I also declare myself opposed to almost the whole of your administration; for I know it to have been deceitful, if not perfidious, as I shall shew in the course of this letter. But as to the point of consolidating the States into a Federal Government, it so happens, that the proposition for that purpose came originally from myself. I proposed it in a letter to Chancellor Livingston in the spring of 1782, while that gentleman was Minister for Foreign Affairs. The five per cent, duty recommended by Congress had then fallen through, having been adopted by some of the States, altered by others, rejected by Rhode Island, and repealed by Virginia after it had been consented to. The proposal in the letter I allude to, was to get over the whole difficulty at once, by annexing a continental legislative body to Congress; for in order to have any law of the Union uniform, the case could only be, that either Congress, as it then stood, must frame the law, and the States severally adopt it without alteration, or the States must erect a Continental Legislature for the purpose. Chancellor Livingston, Robert Morris, Gouverneur Morris, and myself, had a meeting at the house of Robert Morris on the subject of that letter. There was no diversity of opinion on the proposition for a Continental Legislature: the only difficulty was on the manner of bringing the proposition forward. For my own part, as I considered it as a remedy in reserve, that could be applied at any time when the States saw themselves wrong enough to be put right, (which did not appear to be the case at that time) I did not see the propriety of urging it precipitately, and declined being the publisher of it myself. After this account of a fact, the leaders of your party will scarcely have the hardiness to apply to me the term of Antifederalist. But I can go to a date and to a fact beyond this; for the proposition for electing a continental convention to form the Continental Government is one of the subjects treated of in the pamphlet Common Sense.(1)
* I have always been opposed to the mode of refining Government up to an individual, or what is called a single Executive. Such a man will always be the chief of a party. A plurality is far better: It combines the mass of a nation better together: And besides this, it is necessary to the manly mind of a republic that it loses the debasing idea of obeying an individual.—Author.
1 See vol. i. of this work, pp. 97, 98, 109, no.—Editor..
Having thus cleared away a little of the rubbish that might otherwise have lain in my way, I return to the point of time at which the present Federal Constitution and your administration began. It was very well said by an anonymous writer in Philadelphia, about a year before that period, that "thirteen staves and ne'er a hoop will not make a barrel" and as any kind of hooping the barrel, however defectively executed, would be better than none, it was scarcely possible but that considerable advantages must arise from the federal hooping of the States. It was with pleasure that every sincere friend of America beheld, as the natural effect of union, her rising prosperity; and it was with grief they saw that prosperity mixed, even in the blossom, with the germ of corruption. Monopolies of every kind marked your administration almost in the moment of its commencement. The lands obtained by the revolution were lavished upon partisans; the interest of the disbanded soldier was sold to the speculator; injustice was acted under the pretence of faith; and the chief of the army became the patron of the fraud.(2) From such a beginning what else could be expected, than what has happened? A mean and servile submission to the insults of one nation; treachery and ingratitude to another.
2 The history of the Scioto Company, by which so many Frenchmen as well as Americans were ruined, warranted an even stronger statement. Though Washington did not know what was going on, he cannot be acquitted of a lack of due precaution in patronizing leading agents of these speculations, and introducing them in France.—Editor.
Some vices make their approach with such a splendid appearance, that we scarcely know to what class of moral distinctions they belong. They are rather virtues corrupted than vices, originally. But meanness and ingratitude have nothing equivocal in their character. There is not a trait in them that renders them doubtful. They are so originally vice, that they are generated in the dung of other vices, and crawl into existence with the filth upon their back. The fugitives have found protection in you, and the levee-room is their place of rendezvous.
As the Federal Constitution is a copy, though not quite so base as the original, of the form of the British Government, an imitation of its vices was naturally to be expected. So intimate is the connection between form and practice, that to adopt the one is to invite the other. Imitation is naturally progressive, and is rapidly so in matters that are vicious.
Soon after the Federal Constitution arrived in England, I received a letter from a female literary correspondent (a native of New York) very well mixed with friendship, sentiment, and politics. In my answer to that letter, I permitted myself to ramble into the wilderness of imagination, and to anticipate what might hereafter be the condition of America. I had no idea that the picture I then drew was realizing so fast, and still less that Mr. Washington was hurrying it on. As the extract I allude to is congenial with the subject I am upon, I here transcribe it:
[The extract is the same as that given in a footnote, in the Memorial to Monroe, p. 180.]
Impressed, as I was, with apprehensions of this kind, I had America constantly in my mind in all the publications I afterwards made. The First, and still more the Second, Part of the Rights of Man, bear evident marks of this watchfulness; and the Dissertation on First Principles of Government [XXIV.] goes more directly to the point than either of the former. I now pass on to other subjects.
It will be supposed by those into whose hands this letter may fall, that I have some personal resentment against you; I will therefore settle this point before I proceed further.
If I have any resentment, you must acknowledge that I have not been hasty in declaring it; neither would it now be declared (for what are private resentments to the public) if the cause of it did not unite itself as well with your public as with your private character, and with the motives of your political conduct.
The part I acted in the American revolution is well known; I shall not here repeat it. I know also that had it not been for the aid received from France, in men, money and ships, that your cold and unmilitary conduct (as I shall shew in the course of this letter) would in all probability have lost America; at least she would not have been the independent nation she now is. You slept away your time in the field, till the finances of the country were completely exhausted, and you have but little share in the glory of the final event. It is time, sir, to speak the undisguised language of historical truth.
Elevated to the chair of the Presidency, you assumed the merit of every thing to yourself, and the natural ingratitude of your constitution began to appear. You commenced your Presidential career by encouraging and swallowing the grossest adulation, and you travelled America from one end to the other to put yourself in the way of receiving it. You have as many addresses in your chest as James the II. As to what were your views, for if you are not great enough to have ambition you are little enough to have vanity, they cannot be directly inferred from expressions of your own; but the partizans of your politics have divulged the secret.
John Adams has said, (and John it is known was always a speller after places and offices, and never thought his little services were highly enough paid,)—John has said, that as Mr. Washington had no child, the Presidency should be made hereditary in the family of Lund Washington. John might then have counted upon some sinecure himself, and a provision for his descendants. He did not go so far as to say, also, that the Vice-Presidency should be hereditary in the family of John Adams. He prudently left that to stand on the ground that one good turn deserves another.(*)
John Adams is one of those men who never contemplated the origin of government, or comprehended any thing of first principles. If he had, he might have seen, that the right to set up and establish hereditary government, never did, and never can, exist in any generation at any time whatever; that it is of the nature of treason; because it is an attempt to take away the rights of all the minors living at that time, and of all succeeding generations. It is of a degree beyond common treason. It is a sin against nature. The equal right of every generation is a right fixed in the nature of things. It belongs to the son when of age, as it belonged to the father before him. John Adams would himself deny the right that any former deceased generation could have to decree authoritatively a succession of governors over him, or over his children; and yet he assumes the pretended right, treasonable as it is, of acting it himself. His ignorance is his best excuse.
John Jay has said,(**) (and this John was always the sycophant of every thing in power, from Mr. Girard in America, to Grenville in England,)—John Jay has said, that the Senate should have been appointed for life. He would then have been sure of never wanting a lucrative appointment for himself, and have had no fears about impeachment. These are the disguised traitors that call themselves Federalists.(**)
Could I have known to what degree of corruption and perfidy the administrative part of the government of America had descended, I could have been at no loss to have understood the reservedness of Mr. Washington towards me, during my imprisonment in the Luxembourg. There are cases in which silence is a loud language. I will here explain the cause of that imprisonment, and return to Mr. Washington afterwards.
* Two persons to whom John Adams said this, told me of it. The secretary of Mr. Jay was present when it was told to me.—Author.
** If Mr. John Jay desires to know on what authority I say this, I will give that authority publicly when he chooses to call for it—Author.
In the course of that rage, terror and suspicion, which the brutal letter of the Duke of Brunswick first started into existence in France, it happened that almost every man who was opposed to violence, or who was not violent himself, became suspected. I had constantly been opposed to every thing which was of the nature or of the appearance of violence; but as I had always done it in a manner that shewed it to be a principle founded in my heart, and not a political manouvre, it precluded the pretence of accusing me. I was reached, however, under another pretence.
A decree was passed to imprison all persons born in England; but as I was a member of the Convention, and had been complimented with the honorary style of Citizen of France, as Mr. Washington and some other Americans had been, this decree fell short of reaching me. A motion was afterwards made and carried, supported chiefly by Bourdon de l'Oise, for expelling foreigners from the Convention. My expulsion being thus effected, the two committees of Public Safety and of General Surety, of which Robespierre was the dictator, put me in arrestation under the former decree for imprisoning persons born in England. Having thus shewn under what pretence the imprisonment was effected, I come to speak of such parts of the case as apply between me and Mr. Washington, either as a President or as an individual.
I have always considered that a foreigner, such as I was in fact, with respect to France, might be a member of a Convention for framing a Constitution, without affecting his right of citizenship in the country to which he belongs, but not a member of a government after a Constitution is formed; and I have uniformly acted upon this distinction" To be a member of a government requires that a person be in allegiance to that government and to the country locally. But a Constitution, being a thing of principle, and not of action, and which, after it is formed, is to be referred to the people for their approbation or rejection, does not require allegiance in the persons forming and proposing it; and besides this, it is only to the thing after it be formed and established, and to the country after its governmental character is fixed by the adoption of a constitution, that the allegiance can be given. No oath of allegiance or of citizenship was required of the members who composed the Convention: there was nothing existing in form to swear allegiance to. If any such condition had been required, I could not, as Citizen of America in fact, though Citizen of France by compliment, have accepted a seat in the Convention.
As my citizenship in America was not altered or diminished by any thing I had done in Europe, (on the contrary, it ought to be considered as strengthened, for it was the American principle of government that I was endeavouring to spread in Europe,) and as it is the duty of every govern-ment to charge itself with the care of any of its citizens who may happen to fall under an arbitrary persecution abroad, and is also one of the reasons for which ambassadors or ministers are appointed,—it was the duty of the Executive department in America, to have made (at least) some enquiries about me, as soon as it heard of my imprisonment. But if this had not been the case, that government owed it to me on every ground and principle of honour and gratitude. Mr. Washington owed it to me on every score of private acquaintance, I will not now say, friendship; for it has some time been known by those who know him, that he has no friendships; that he is incapable of forming any; he can serve or desert a man, or a cause, with constitutional indifference; and it is this cold hermaphrodite faculty that imposed itself upon the world, and was credited for a while by enemies as by friends, for prudence, moderation and impartiality.(1)
1 "L'on pent dire qu'il [Washington] jouit de tous les avantages possibles a l'exception des douceurs de l'amitie."—Louis Otto, Charge d'Affaires (at New York) to his government, 13 June, 1790. French Archives, vol. 35, No. 32.—Editor.
Soon after I was put into arrestation, and imprisoned in the Luxembourg, the Americans who were then in Paris went in a body to the bar of the Convention to reclaim me. They were answered by the then President Vadier, who has since absconded, that I was born in England, and it was signified to them, by some of the Committee of General Surety, to whom they were referred (I have been told it was Billaud Varennes,) that their reclamation of me was only the act of individuals, without any authority from the American government.
A few days after this, all communications from persons imprisoned to any person without the prison was cut off by an order of the Police. I neither saw, nor heard from, any body for six months; and the only hope that remained to me was, that a new Minister would arrive from America to supercede Morris, and that he would be authorized to enquire into the cause of my imprisonment. But even this hope, in the state to which matters were daily arriving, was too remote to have any consolatory effect, and I contented myself with the thought, that I might be remembered when it would be too late. There is perhaps no condition from which a man conscious of his own uprightness cannot derive consolation; for it is in itself a consolation for him to find, that he can bear that condition with calmness and fortitude.
From about the middle of March (1794) to the fall of Robespierre July 29, (9th of Thermidor,) the state of things in the prisons was a continued scene of horror. No man could count upon life for twenty-four hours. To such a pitch of rage and suspicion were Robespierre and his Committee arrived, that it seemed as if they feared to leave a man living. Scarcely a night passed in which ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or more, were not taken out of the prison, carried before a pretended tribunal in the morning, and guillotined before night. One hundred and sixty-nine were taken out of the Luxembourg one night, in the month of July, and one hundred and sixty of them guillotined. A list of two hundred more, according to the report in the prison, was preparing a few days before Robespierre fell. In this last list I have good reason to believe I was included. A memorandum in the hand-writing of Robespierre was afterwards produced in the Convention, by the committee to whom the papers of Robespierre were referred, in these words:
"Demander que Thomas "I Demand that Thomas Paine "Payne soit decrete d'ac- be decreed of accusation "cusation pour les inte- for the interests of America "rotsde l'Amerique,autant as well as of France." "que de la France."
1 In reading this the Committee added, "Why Thomas Payne more than another? Because He helped to establish the liberty of both worlds."—Editor.
I had then been imprisoned seven months, and the silence of the Executive part of the government of America (Mr. Washington) upon the case, and upon every thing respecting me, was explanation enough to Robespierre that he might proceed to extremities.
A violent fever which had nearly terminated my existence, was, I believe, the circumstance that preserved it. I was not in a condition to be removed, or to know of what was passing, or of what had passed, for more than a month. It makes a blank in my remembrance of life. The first thing I was informed of was the fall of Robespierre.
About a week after this, Mr. Monroe arrived to supercede Gouverneur Morris, and as soon as I was able to write a note legible enough to be read, I found a way to convey one to him by means of the man who lighted the lamps in the prison; and whose unabated friendship to me, from whom he had never received any service, and with difficulty accepted any recompense, puts the character of Mr. Washington to shame.
In a few days I received a message from Mr. Monroe, conveyed to me in a note from an intermediate person, with assurance of his friendship, and expressing a desire that I would rest the case in his hands. After a fortnight or more had passed, and hearing nothing farther, I wrote to a friend who was then in Paris, a citizen of Philadelphia, requesting him to inform me what was the true situation of things with respect to me. I was sure that something was the matter; I began to have hard thoughts of Mr. Washington, but I was unwilling to encourage them.
In about ten days, I received an answer to my letter, in which the writer says, "Mr. Monroe has told me that he has no order [meaning from the President, Mr. Washington] respecting you, but that he (Mr. Monroe) will do every thing in his power to liberate you; but, from what I learn from the Americans lately arrived in Paris, you are not considered, either by the American government, or by the individuals, as an American citizen."
I was now at no loss to understand Mr. Washington and his new fangled faction, and that their policy was silently to leave me to fall in France. They were rushing as fast as they could venture, without awakening the jealousy of America, into all the vices and corruptions of the British government; and it was no more consistent with the policy of Mr. Washington, and those who immediately surrounded him, than it was with that of Robespierre or of Pitt, that I should survive. They have, however, missed the mark, and the reaction is upon themselves.
Upon the receipt of the letter just alluded to, I sent a memorial to Mr. Monroe, which the reader will find in the appendix, and I received from him the following answer.(1) It is dated the 18th of September, but did not come to hand till about the 4th of October. I was then failing into a relapse, the weather was becoming damp and cold, fuel was not to be had, and the abscess in my side, the consequence of these things, and of the want of air and exercise, was beginning to form, and which has continued immoveable ever since. Here follows Mr. Monroe's letter.
1 The appendix consisted of an abridgment of the Memorial, which forms the preceding chapter (XXI.) in this volume.— Editor..
Paris, September 18th, 1794. "Dear Sir,
"I was favoured soon after my arrival here with several letters from you, and more latterly with one in the character of memorial upon the subject of your confinement; and should have answered them at the times they were respectively written had I not concluded you would have calculated with certainty upon the deep interest I take in your welfare, and the pleasure with which I shall embrace every opportunity in my power to serve you. I should still pursue the same course, and for reasons which must obviously occur, if I did not find that you are disquieted with apprehensions upon interesting points, and which justice to you and our country equally forbid you should entertain. You mention that you have been informed you are not considered as an American citizen by the Americans, and that you have likewise heard that I had no instructions respecting you by the government. I doubt not the person who gave you the information meant well, but I suspect he did not even convey accurately his own ideas on the first point: for I presume the most he could say is, that you had likewise become a French citizen, and which by no means deprived you of being an American one. Even this, however, may be doubted, I mean the acquisition of citizenship in France, and I confess you have said much to show that it has not been made. I really suspect that this was all that the gentleman who wrote to you, and those Americans he heard speak upon the subject meant. It becomes my duty, however, to declare to you, that I consider you as an American citizen, and that you are considered universally in that character by the people of America. As such you are entitled to my attention; and so far as it can be given consistently with those obligations which are mutual between every government and even a transient passenger, you shall receive it.
"The Congress have never decided upon the subject of citizenship in a manner to regard the present case. By being with us through the revolution you are of our country as absolutely as if you had been born there, and you are no more of England, than every native American is. This is the true doctrine in the present case, so far as it becomes complicated with any other consideration. I have mentioned it to make you easy upon the only point which could give you any disquietude.
"Is it necessary for me to tell you how much all your countrymen, I speak of the great mass of the people, are interested in your welfare? They have not forgotten the history of their own revolution and the difficult scenes through which they passed; nor do they review its several stages without reviving in their bosoms a due sensibility of the merits of those who served them in that great and arduous conflict. The crime of ingratitude has not yet stained, and I trust never will stain, our national character. You are considered by them as not only having rendered important service in our own revolution, but as being, on a more extensive scale, the friend of human rights, and a distinguished and able advocate in favour of public liberty. To the welfare of Thomas Paine, the Americans are not, nor can they be, indifferent.
"Of the sense which the President has always entertained of your merits, and of his friendly disposition towards you, you are too well assured to require any declaration of it from me. That I forward his wishes in seeking your safety is what I well know, and this will form an additional obligation on me to perform what I should otherwise consider as a duty.
"You are, in my opinion, at present menaced by no kind of danger. To liberate you, will be an object of my endeavours, and as soon as possible. But you must, until that event shall be accomplished, bear your situation with patience and fortitude. You will likewise have the justice to recollect, that I am placed here upon a difficult theatre* many important objects to attend to, with few to consult It becomes me in pursuit of those to regulate my conduct in respect to each, as to the manner and the time, as will, in my judgment, be best calculated to accomplish the whole.
"With great esteem and respect consider me personally your friend,
The part in Mr. Monroe's letter, in which he speaks of the President, (Mr. Washington,) is put in soft language. Mr. Monroe knew what Mr. Washington had said formerly, and he was willing to keep that in view. But the fact is, not only that Mr. Washington had given no orders to Mr. Monroe, as the letter [of Whiteside] stated, but he did not so much as say to him, enquire if Mr. Paine be dead or alive, in prison or out, or see if there be any assistance we can give him.
This I presume alludes to the embarrassments which the strange conduct of Gouverneur Morris had occasioned, and which, I well know, had created suspicions of the sincerity of Mr. Washington.—Author. voi. m—ij
While these matters were passing, the liberations from the prisons were numerous; from twenty to forty in the course of almost every twenty-four hours. The continuance of my imprisonment after a new Minister had arrived immediately from America, which was now more than two months, was a matter so obviously strange, that I found the character of the American government spoken of in very unqualified terms of reproach; not only by those who still remained in prison, but by those who were liberated, and by persons who had access to the prison from without. Under these circumstances I wrote again to Mr. Monroe, and found occasion, among other things, to say: "It will not add to the popularity of Mr. Washington to have it believed in America, as it is believed here, that he connives at my imprisonment."
The case, so far as it respected Mr. Monroe, was, that having to get over the difficulties, which the strange conduct of Gouverneur Morris had thrown in the way of a successor, and having no authority from the American government to speak officially upon any thing relating to me, he found himself obliged to proceed by unofficial means with individual members; for though Robespierre was overthrown, the Robespierrian members of the Committee of Public Safety still remained in considerable force, and had they found out that Mr. Monroe had no official authority upon the case, they would have paid little or no regard to his reclamation of me. In the mean time my health was suffering exceedingly, the dreary prospect of winter was coming on, and imprisonment was still a thing of danger. After the Robespierrian members of the Committee were removed by the expiration of their time of serving, Mr. Monroe reclaimed me, and I was liberated the 4th of November. Mr. Monroe arrived in Paris the beginning of August before. All that period of my imprisonment, at least, I owe not to Robespierre, but to his colleague in projects, George Washington. Immediately upon my liberation, Mr. Monroe invited me to his house, where I remained more than a year and a half; and I speak of his aid and friendship, as an open-hearted man will always do in such a case, with respect and gratitude.
Soon after my liberation, the Convention passed an unanimous vote, to invite me to return to my seat among them. The times were still unsettled and dangerous, as well from without as within, for the coalition was unbroken, and the constitution not settled. I chose, however, to accept the invitation: for as I undertake nothing but what I believe to be right, I abandon nothing that I undertake; and I was willing also to shew, that, as I was not of a cast of mind to be deterred by prospects or retrospects of danger, so neither were my principles to be weakened by misfortune or perverted by disgust.
Being now once more abroad in the world, I began to find that I was not the only one who had conceived an unfavourable opinion of Mr. Washington; it was evident that his character was on the decline as well among Americans as among foreigners of different nations. From being the chief of the government, he had made himself the chief of a party; and his integrity was questioned, for his politics had a doubtful appearance. The mission of Mr. Jay to London, notwithstanding there was an American Minister there already, had then taken place, and was beginning to be talked of. It appeared to others, as it did to me, to be enveloped in mystery, which every day served either to increase or to explain into matter of suspicion.
In the year 1790, or about that time, Mr. Washington, as President, had sent Gouverneur Morris to London, as his secret agent to have some communication with the British Ministry. To cover the agency of Morris it was given out, I know not by whom, that he went as an agent from Robert Morris to borrow money in Europe, and the report was permitted to pass uncontradicted. The event of Morris's negociation was, that Mr. Hammond was sent Minister from England to America, Pinckney from America to England, and himself Minister to France. If, while Morris was Minister in France, he was not a emissary of the British Ministry and the coalesced powers, he gave strong reasons to suspect him of it. No one who saw his conduct, and heard his conversation, could doubt his being in their interest; and had he not got off the time he did, after his recall, he would have been in arrestation. Some letters of his had fallen into the hands of the Committee of Public Safety, and enquiry was making after him.
A great bustle had been made by Mr. Washington about the conduct of Genet in America, while that of his own Minister, Morris, in France, was infinitely more reproachable. If Genet was imprudent or rash, he was not treacherous; but Morris was all three. He was the enemy of the French revolution, in every stage of it. But notwithstanding this conduct on the part of Morris, and the known profligacy of his character, Mr. Washington in a letter he wrote to him at the time of recalling him on the complaint and request of the Committee of Public Safety, assures him, that though he had complied with that request, he still retained the same esteem and friendship for him as before. This letter Morris was foolish enough to tell of; and, as his own char-acter and conduct were notorious, the telling of it could have but one effect, which was that of implicating the character of the writer.(1) Morris still loiters in Europe, chiefly in England; and Mr. Washington is still in correspondence with him. Mr. Washington ought, therefore, to expect, especially since his conduct in the affairs of Jay's treaty, that France must consider Morris and Washington as men of the same description. The chief difference, however, between the two is, (for in politics there is none,) that the one is profligate enough to profess an indifference about moral principles, and the other is prudent enough to conceal the want of them.
1 Washington wrote to Morris, June 19,1794, "my confidence in and friendship for you remain undiminished." It was not "foolish" but sagacious to show this one sentence, without which Morris might not have escaped out of France. The letter reveals Washington's mental decline. He says "until then [Fauchet's demand for recall of Morris, early 1794] I had supposed you stood well with the powers that were." Lafayette had pleaded for Morris's removal, and two French Ministers before Fauchet, Ternant and Genet, had expressed their Government's dissatisfaction with him. See Ford's Writings of Washington, vii., p. 453; also Editor's Introduction to XXI.—Editor.
About three months after I was at liberty, the official note of Jay to Grenville on the subject of the capture of American vessels by the British cruisers, appeared in the American papers that arrived at Paris. Every thing was of a-piece. Every thing was mean. The same kind of character went to all circumstances public or private. Disgusted at this national degradation, as well as at the particular conduct of Mr. Washington to me, I wrote to him (Mr. Washington) on the 22d of February (1795) under cover to the then Secretary of State, (Mr. Randolph,) and entrusted the letter to Mr. Le-tombe, who was appointed French consul to Philadelphia, and was on the point of taking his departure. When I supposed Mr. Letombe had sailed, I mentioned the letter to Mr. Monroe, and as I was then in his house, I shewed it to him. He expressed a wish that I would recall it, which he supposed might be done, as he had learnt that Mr. Letombe had not then sailed. I agreed to do so, and it was returned by Mr. Letombe under cover to Mr. Monroe.
The letter, however, will now reach Mr. Washington publicly in the course of this work.
About the month of September following, I had a severe relapse which gave occasion to the report of my death. I had felt it coming on a considerable time before, which occasioned me to hasten the work I had then in hand, the Second part of the Age of Reason. When I had finished that work, I bestowed another letter on Mr. Washington, which I sent under cover to Mr. Benj. Franklin Bache of Philadelphia. The letter is as follows:
"Paris, September 20th, 1795.
"I had written you a letter by Mr. Letombe, French consul, but, at the request of Mr. Monroe, I withdrew it, and the letter is still by me. I was the more easily prevailed upon to do this, as it was then my intention to have returned to America the latter end of the present year, 1795; but the illness I now suffer prevents me. In case I had come, I should have applied to you for such parts of your official letters (and of your private ones, if you had chosen to give them) as contained any instructions or directions either to Mr. Monroe, or to Mr. Morris, or to any other person respecting me; for after you were informed of my imprisonment in France, it was incumbent on you to have made some enquiry into the cause, as you might very well conclude that I had not the opportunity of informing you of it. I cannot understand your silence upon this subject upon any other ground, than as connivance at my imprisonment; and this is the manner it is understood here, and will be understood in America, unless you give me authority for contradicting it. I therefore write you this letter, to propose to you to send me copies of any letters you have written, that may remove that suspicion. In the preface to the second part of the Age of Reason, I have given a memorandum from the hand-writing of Robespierre, in which he proposed a decree of accusation against me, 'for the interests of America as well as of France!' He could have no cause for putting America in the case, but by interpreting the silence of the American government into connivance and consent. I was imprisoned on the ground of being born in England; and your silence in not enquiring into the cause of that imprisonment, and reclaiming me against it, was tacitly giving me up. I ought not to have suspected you of treachery; but whether I recover from the illness I now suffer or not, I shall continue to think you treacherous, till you give me cause to think otherwise. I am sure you would have found yourself more at your ease, had you acted by me as you ought; for whether your desertion of me was intended to gratify the English Government, or to let me fall into destruction in France that you might exclaim the louder against the French Revolution, or whether you hoped by my extinction to meet with less opposition in mounting up the American government—either of these will involve you in reproach you will not easily shake off.
1 Washington Papers in State Department. Endorsed by Bache: "Jan. 18, 1796. Enclosed to Benj. Franklin Bache, and by him forwarded immediately upon receipt."—Editor..
Here follows the letter above alluded to, which I had stopped in complaisance to Mr. Monroe.
"Paris, February aad, 1795.
"As it is always painful to reproach those one would wish to respect, it is not without some difficulty that I have taken the resolution to write to you. The dangers to which I have been exposed cannot have been unknown to you, and the guarded silence you have observed upon that circumstance is what I ought not to have expected from you, either as a friend or as President of the United States.
"You knew enough of my character to be assured that I could not have deserved imprisonment in France; and, without knowing any thing more than this, you had sufficient ground to have taken some interest for my safety. Every motive arising from recollection of times past, ought to have suggested to you the propriety of such a measure. But I cannot find that you have so much as directed any enquiry to be made whether I was in prison or at liberty, dead or alive; what the cause of that imprisonment was, or whether there was any service or assistance you could render. Is this what I ought to have expected from America, after the part I had acted towards her, or will it redound to her honour or to yours, that I tell the story? I do not hesitate to say, that you have not served America with more disinterestedness, or greater zeal, or more fidelity, than myself, and I know not if with better effect. After the revolution of America was established I ventured into new scenes of difficulties to extend the principles which that revolution had produced, and you rested at home to partake of the advantages. In the progress of events, you beheld yourself a President in America, and me a prisoner in France. You folded your arms, forgot your friend, and became silent.
"As every thing I have been doing in Europe was connected with my wishes for the prosperity of America, I ought to be the more surprised at this conduct on the part of her government. It leaves me but one mode of explanation, which is, that every thing is not as it ought to be amongst you, and that the presence of a man who might disapprove, and who had credit enough with the country to be heard and believed, was not wished for. This was the operating motive with the despotic faction that imprisoned me in France, (though the pretence was, that I was a foreigner,) and those that have been silent and inactive towards me in America, appear to me to have acted from the same motive. It is impossible for me to discover any other.(1)
"After the part I have taken in the revolution of America, it is natural that I feel interested in whatever relates to her character and prosperity. Though I am not on the spot to see what is immediately acting there, I see some part of what she is acting in Europe. For your own sake, as well as for that of America, I was both surprised and concerned at the appointment of Gouverneur Morris to be Minister to France. His conduct has proved that the opinion I had formed of that appointment was well founded. I wrote that opinion to Mr. Jefferson at the time, and I was frank enough to say the same thing to Morris—that it was an unfortunate appointment? His prating, insignificant pomposity, rendered him at once offensive, suspected, and ridiculous; and his total neglect of all business had so disgusted the Americans, that they proposed drawing up a protest against him. He carried this neglect to such an extreme, that it was necessary to inform him of it; and I asked him one day, if he did not feel himself ashamed to take the money of the country, and do nothing for it?' But Morris is so fond of profit and voluptousness, that he cares nothing about character. Had he not been removed at the time he was, I think his conduct would have precipitated the two countries into a rupture; and in this case, hated systematically as America is and ever will be by the British government, and at the same time suspected by France, the commerce of America would have fallen a prey to both countries.
1 This paragraph of the original letter was omitted from the American pamphlet, probably by the prudence of Mr. Bache.— Editor.
2 "I have just heard of Gouverneur Morris's appointment. It is a most unfortunate one; and, as I shall mention the same thing to him when I see him, I do not express it to you with the injunction of confidence."—Paine to Jefferson, Feb. 13,1792.—Editor.
3 Paine could not of course know that Morris was willing that the Americans, to whom he alludes, captains of captured vessels, should suffer, in order that there might be a case against France of violation of treaty, which would leave the United States free to transfer the alliance to England. See Introduction to XXI.. also my "Life of Paine," ii., p. 83.—Editor..
"If the inconsistent conduct of Morris exposed the interest of America to some hazard in France, the pusillanimous conduct of Mr. Jay in England has rendered the American government contemptible in Europe. Is it possible that any man who has contributed to the independence of Amer-ica, and to free her from the tyranny and injustice of the British government, can read without shame and indignation the note of Jay to Grenville? It is a satire upon the declaration of Independence, and an encouragement to the British government to treat America with contempt. At the time this Minister of Petitions was acting this miserable part, he had every means in his hands to enable him to have done his business as he ought. The success or failure of his mission depended upon the success or failure of the French arms. Had France failed, Mr. Jay might have put his humble petition in his pocket, and gone home. The case happened to be otherwise, and he has sacrificed the honour and perhaps all the advantages of it, by turning petitioner. I take it for granted, that he was sent over to demand indemnification for the captured property; and, in this case, if he thought he wanted a preamble to his demand, he might have said,
'That, tho' the government of England might suppose itself under the necessity of seizing American property bound to France, yet that supposed necessity could not preclude indemnification to the proprietors, who, acting under the authority of their own government, were not accountable to any other.'
"But Mr. Jay sets out with an implied recognition of the right of the British government to seize and condemn: for he enters his complaint against the irregularity of the seizures and the condemnation, as if they were reprehensible only by not being conformable to the terms of the proclamation under which they were seized. Instead of being the Envoy of a government, he goes over like a lawyer to demand a new trial. I can hardly help thinking that Grenville wrote that note himself and Jay signed it; for the style of it is domestic and not diplomatic. The term, His Majesty, used without any descriptive epithet, always signifies the King whom the Minister that speaks represents. If this sinking of the demand into a petition was a juggle between Grenville and Jay, to cover the indemnification, I think it will end in another juggle, that of never paying the money, and be made use of afterwards to preclude the right of demanding it: for Mr. Jay has virtually disowned the right by appealing to the magnanimity of his Majesty against the capturers. He has made this magnanimous Majesty the umpire in the case, and the government of the United States must abide by the decision. If, Sir, I turn some part of this business into ridicule, it is to avoid the unpleasant sensation of serious indignation.
"Among other things which I confess I do not understand, is the proclamation of neutrality. This has always appeared to me as an assumption on the part of the executive not warranted by the Constitution. But passing this over, as a disputable case, and considering it only as political, the consequence has been that of sustaining the losses of war, without the balance of reprisals. When the profession of neutrality, on the part of America, was answered by hostilities on the part of Britain, the object and intention of that neutrality existed no longer; and to maintain it after this, was not only to encourage farther insults and depredations, but was an informal breach of neutrality towards France, by passively contributing to the aid of her enemy. That the government of England considered the American government as pusillanimous, is evident from the encreasing insolence of the conduct of the former towards the latter, till the affair of General Wayne. She then saw that it might be possible to kick a government into some degree of spirit.(1) So far as the proclamation of neutrality was intended to prevent a dissolute spirit of privateering in America under foreign colors, it was undoubtedly laudable; but to continue it as a government neutrality, after the commerce of America was made war upon, was submission and not neutrality. I have heard so much about this thing called neutrality, that I know not if the ungenerous and dishonorable silence (for I must call it such,) that has been observed by your part of the government towards me, during my imprisonment, has not in some measure arisen from that policy.