Considering the event of the 18th Fructidor in a political light, it is one of those that are justifiable only on the supreme law of absolute necessity, and it is the necessity abstracted from the event that is to be deplored. The event itself is matter of joy. Whether the manouvres in the Council of Five Hundred were the conspiracy of a few, aided l>y the perverseness of many, or whether it had a deeper root, the dangers were the same. It was impossible to go on. Every thing was at stake, and all national business at a stand. The case reduced itself to a simple alternative—shall the Republic be destroyed by the darksome manouvres -of a faction, or shall it be preserved by an exceptional act?
During the American Revolution, and that after the State constitutions were established, particular cases arose that rendered it necessary to act in a manner that would have been treasonable in a state of peace. At one time Congress invested General Washington with dictatorial power. At another time the Government of Pennsylvania suspended itself and declared martial law. It was the necessity of the times only that made the apology of those extraordinary measures. But who was it that produced the necessity of an extraordinary measure in France? A faction, and that in the face of prosperity and success. Its conduct is without apology; and it is on the faction only that the exceptional measure has fallen. The public has suffered no inconvenience. If there are some men more disposed than others not to act severely, I have a right to place myself in that class; the whole of my political life invariably proves it; yet I cannot see, taking all parts of the case together, what else, or what better, could have been done, than has been done. It was a great stroke, applied in a great crisis, that crushed in an instant, and without the loss of a life, all the hopes of the enemy, and restored tranquillity to the interior.
The event was ushered in by the discharge of two cannon at four in the morning, and was the only noise that was heard throughout the day. It naturally excited a movement among the Parisians to enquire the cause. They soon learned it, and the countenance they carried was easy to be interpreted. It was that of a people who, for some time past, had been oppressed with apprehensions of some direful event, and who felt themselves suddenly relieved, by finding what it was. Every one went about his business, or followed his curiosity in quietude. It resembled the cheerful tranquillity of the day when Louis XVI. absconded in 1791, and like that day it served to open the eyes of the nation.
If we take a review of the various events, as well conspiracies as commotions, that have succeeded each other in this revolution, we shall see how the former have wasted consumptively away, and the consequences of the latter have softened. The 31st May and its consequences were terrible. That of the 9th and 10th Thermidor, though glorious for the republic, as it overthrew one of the most horrid and cruel despotisms that ever raged, was nevertheless marked with many circumstances of severe and continued retaliation. The commotions of Germinal and Prairial of the year 3, and of Vendemaire of the year 4, were many degrees below those that preceded them, and affected but a small part of the public. This of Pichegru and his associates has been crushed in an instant, without the stain of blood, and without involving the public in the least inconvenience.
These events taken in a series, mark the progress of the Republic from disorder to stability. The contrary of this is the case in all parts of the British dominions. There, commotions are on an ascending scale; every one is higher than the former. That of the sailors had nearly been the overthrow of the government. But the most potent of all is the invisible commotion in the Bank. It works with the silence of time, and the certainty of death. Every thing happening in France is curable; but this is beyond the reach of nature or invention.
Leaving the event of the 18th Fructidor to justify itself by the necessity that occasioned it, and glorify itself by the happiness of its consequences, I come to cast a coup-d'oil on the present state of affairs.
We have seen by the lingering condition of the negociations for peace, that nothing was to be expected from them, in the situation that things stood prior to the 18th Fructidor. The armies had done wonders, but those wonders were rendered unproductive by the wretched manouvres of a faction. New exertions are now necessary to repair the mischiefs which that faction has done. The electoral bodies, in some Departments, who by an injudicious choice, or a corrupt influence, have sent improper deputies to the Legislature, have some atonement to make to their country. The evil originated with them, and the least they can do is to be among the foremost to repair it.
It is, however, in vain to lament an evil that is past. There is neither manhood nor policy in grief; and it often happens that an error in politics, like an error in war, admits of being turned to greater advantage than if it had not occurred. The enemy, encouraged by that error, presumes too much, and becomes doubly foiled by the re-action. England, unable to conquer, has stooped to corrupt; and defeated in the last, as in the first, she is in a worse condition than before. Continually increasing her crimes, she increases the measure of her atonement, and multiplies the sacrifices she must make to obtain peace. Nothing but the most obstinate stupidity could have induced her to let slip the opportunity when it was within her reach. In addition to the prospect of new expenses, she is now, to use Mr. Pitt's own figurative expression against France, not only on the brink, but in the gulph of bankruptcy. There is no longer any mystery in paper money. Call it assignats, mandats, exchequer bills, or bank notes, it is still the same. Time has solved the problem, and experience has fixed its fate.(1)
1 See Chapter XXVI. of this volume.—Editor..
The government of that unfortunate country discovers its faithlessness so much, that peace on any terms with her is scarcely worth obtaining. Of what use is peace with a government that will employ that peace for no other purpose than to repair, as far as it is possible, her shattered finances and broken credit, and then go to war again? Four times within the last ten years, from the time the American war closed, has the Anglo-germanic government of England been meditating fresh war. First with France on account of Holland, in 1787; afterwards with Russia; then with Spain, on account of Nootka Sound; and a second time against France, to overthrow her revolution. Sometimes that government employs Prussia against Austria; at another time Austria against Prussia; and always one or the other, or both against France. Peace with such a government is only a treacherous cessation of hostilities.
The frequency of wars on the part of England, within the last century, more than before, must have had some cause that did not exist prior to that epoch. It is not difficult to discover what that cause is. It is the mischievous compound of an Elector of the Germanic body and a King of England; and which necessarily must, at some day or other, become an object of attention to France. That one nation has not a right to interfere in the internal government of another nation, is admitted; and in this point of view, France has no right to dictate to England what its form of government shall be. If it choose to have a thing called a King, or whether that King shall be a man or an ass, is a matter with which France has no business. But whether an Elector of the Germanic body shall be King of England, is an external case, with which France and every other nation, who suffers inconvenience and injury in consequence of it, has a right to interfere.
It is from this mischievous compound of Elector and King, that originates a great part of the troubles that vex the continent of Europe; and with respect to England, it has been the cause of her immense national debt, the ruin of her finances, and the insolvency of her bank. All intrigues on the continent, in which England is a party, or becomes involved, are generated by, and act through, the medium of this Anglo-germanic compound. It will be necessary to dissolve it. Let the Elector retire to his Electorate, and the world will have peace.
England herself has given examples of interference in matters of this kind, and that in cases where injury was only apprehended. She engaged in a long and expensive war against France (called the succession war) to prevent a grandson of Louis the Fourteenth being king of Spain; because, said she, it will be injurious to me; and she has been fighting and intriguing against what was called the family-compact ever since. In 1787 she threatened France with war to prevent a connection between France and Hoi-land; and in all her propositions of peace to-day she is dictating separations. But if she look at the Anglo-germanic compact at home, called the Hanover succession, she cannot avoid seeing that France necessarily must, some day or other, take up that subject, and make the return of the Elector to his Electorate one of the conditions of peace. There will be no lasting peace between the two countries till this be done, and the sooner it be done the better will it be for both.
I have not been in any company where this matter aas been a topic, that did not see it in the light it is here stated. Even Barthelemy,(1) when he first came to the Directory (and Barthelemy was never famous for patriotism) acknowledged in my hearing, and in company with Derche, Secretary to the Legation at Lille, the connection of an Elector of Germany and a King of England to be injurious to France. I do not, however, mention it from a wish to embarrass the negociation for peace. The Directory has fixed its ultimatum; but if that ultimatum be rejected, the obligation to adhere to it is discharged, and a new one may be assumed. So wretchedly has Pitt managed his opportunities" that every succeeding negociation has ended in terms more against him than the former. If the Directory had bribed him, he could not serve his interest better than he does. He serves it as Lord North served that of America, which finished in the discharge of his master.*
1 Marquis de Barthelemy (Francois) (1750-1830) entered the Directory in June, 1796, through royalist influence. He shared Pichegru's banishment, and subsequently became an agent of Louis XVIII.—Editor.
* The father of Pitt, when a member of the House of Commons, exclaiming one day, during a former war, against the enormous and ruinous expense of German connections, as the offspring of the Hanover succession, and borrowing a metaphor from the story of Prometheus, cried out: "Thus, Hie Prometheus, is Britain chained to the barren rock of Hanover; whilst the imperial eagle preys upon her vitals."— Author.
Thus far I had written when the negociation at Lille became suspended, in consequence of which I delayed the publication, that the ideas suggested in this letter might not intrude themselves during the interval. The ultimatum offered by the Directory, as the terms of peace, was more moderate than the government of England had a right to expect. That government, though the provoker of the war, and the first that committed hostilities by sending away the ambassador Chauvelin,(**) had formerly talked of demanding from France, indemnification for the past and security for the future. France, in her turn, might have retorted, and demanded the same from England; but she did not. As it was England that, in consequence of her bankruptcy, solicited peace, France offered it to her on the simple condition of her restoring the islands she had taken. The ultimatum has been rejected, and the negociation broken off. The spirited part of France will say, tant mieux, so much the better.
** It was stipulated in the treaty of commerce between France and England, concluded at Paris, that the sending away an ambassador by either party, should be taken as an act of hostility by the other party. The declaration of war (Feb. M *793) by the Convention, of which I was then a member and know well the case, was made in exact conformity to this article in the treaty; for it was not a declaration of war against England, but a declaration that the French Republic is in war with England; the first act of hostility having been committed by England. The declaration was made immediately on Chauvelin's return to France, and in consequence of it. Mr. Pitt should inform himself of things better than he does, before he prates so much about them, or of the sending away of Malmesbury, who was only on a visit of permission.—Author.
How the people of England feel on the breaking up of the negociation, which was entirely the act of their own Government, is best known to themselves; but from what I know of the two nations, France ought to hold herself perfectly indifferent about a peace with the Government of England. Every day adds new strength to France and new embarrassments to her enemy. The resources of the one increase, as those of the other become exhausted. England is now reduced to the same system of paper money from which France has emerged, and we all know the inevitable fate of that system. It is not a victory over a few ships, like that on the coast of Holland, that gives the least support or relief to a paper system. On the news of this victory arriving in England, the funds did not rise a farthing. The Government rejoiced, but its creditors were silent.
It is difficult to find a motive, except in folly and madness, for the conduct of the English government. Every calculation and prediction of Mr. Pitt has turned out directly the contrary; yet still he predicts. He predicted, with all the solemn assurance of a magician, that France would be bankrupt in a few months. He was right as to the thing, but wrong as to the place, for the bankruptcy happened in England whilst the words were yet warm upon his lips. To find out what will happen, it is only necessary to know what Mr. Pitt predicts. He is a true prophet if taken in the reverse.
Such is the ruinous condition that England is now in, that great as the difficulties of war are to the people, the difficulties that would accompany peace are equally as great to the Government. Whilst the war continues, Mr. Pitt has a pretence for shutting up the bank. But as that pretence could last no longer than the war lasted, he dreads the peace that would expose the absolute bankruptcy of the government, and unveil to a deceived nation the ruinous effect of his measures. Peace would be a day of accounts to him, and he shuns it as an insolvent debtor shuns a meeting of his creditors. War furnishes him with many pretences; peace would furnish him with none, and he stands alarmed at its consequences. His conduct in the negociation at Lille can be easily interpreted. It is not for the sake of the nation that he asks to retain some of the taken islands; for what are islands to a nation that has already too many for her own good, or what are they in comparison to the expense of another campaign in the present depreciating state of the English funds? (And even then those islands must be restored.)
No, it is not for the sake of the nation that he asks. It is for the sake of himself. It is as if he said to France, Give me some pretence, cover me from disgrace when my day of reckoning comes!
Any person acquainted with the English Government knows that every Minister has some dread of what is called in England the winding up of accounts at the end of a war; that is, the final settlement of all expenses incurred by the war; and no Minister had ever so great cause of dread as Mr. Pitt. A burnt child dreads the fire, and Pitt has had some experience upon this case. The winding up of accounts at the end of the American war was so great, that, though he was not the cause of it, and came into the Ministry with great popularity, he lost it all by undertaking, what was impossible for him to avoid, the voluminous business of the winding up. If such was the case in settling the accounts of his predecessor, how much more has he to apprehend when the accounts to be settled are his own? All men in bad circumstances hate the settlement of accounts, and Pitt, as a Minister, is of that description.
But let us take a view of things on a larger ground than the case of a Minister. It will then be found, that England, on a comparison of strength with France, when both nations are disposed to exert their utmost, has no possible chance of success. The efforts that England made within the last century were not generated on the ground of natural ability, but of artificial anticipations. She ran posterity into debt, and swallowed up in one generation the resources of several generations yet to come, till the project can be pursued no longer. It is otherwise in France. The vastness of her territory and her population render the burden easy that would make a bankrupt of a country like England.
It is not the weight of a thing, but the numbers who are to bear that weight, that makes it feel light or heavy to the shoulders of those who bear it. A land-tax of half as much in the pound as the land-tax is in England, will raise nearly four times as much revenue in France as is raised in England. This is a scale easily understood, by which all the other sections of productive revenue can be measured. Judge then of the difference of natural ability.
England is strong in a navy; but that navy costs about eight millions sterling a-year, and is one of the causes that has hastened her bankruptcy. The history of navy bills sufficiently proves this. But strong as England is in this case, the fate of navies must finally be decided by the natural ability of each country to carry its navy to the greatest extent; and France is able to support a navy twice as large as that of England, with less than half the expense per head on the people, which the present navy of England costs.
We all know that a navy cannot be raised as expeditiously as an army. But as the average duration of a navy, taking the decay of time, storms, and all circumstances and accidents together, is less than twenty years, every navy must be renewed within that time; and France at the end of a few years, can create and support a navy of double the extent of that of England; and the conduct of the English government will provoke her to it.
But of what use are navies otherwise than to make or prevent invasions? Commercially considered, they are losses. They scarcely give any protection to the commerce of the countries which have them, compared with the expense of maintaining them, and they insult the commerce of the nations that are neutral.
During the American war, the plan of the armed neutrality was formed and put in execution: but it was inconvenient, expensive, and ineffectual. This being the case, the problem is, does not commerce contain within itself, the means of its own protection? It certainly does, if the neutral nations will employ that means properly.
Instead then of an armed neutrality, the plan should be directly the contrary. It should be an unarmed neutrality. In the first place, the rights of neutral nations are easily defined. They are such as are exercised by nations in their intercourse with each other in time of peace, and which ought not, and cannot of right, be interrupted in consequence of war breaking out between any two or more of them.
Taking this as a principle, the next thing is to give it effect. The plan of the armed neutrality was to effect it by threatening war; but an unarmed neutrality can effect it by much easier and more powerful means.
Were the neutral nations to associate, under an honourable injunction of fidelity to each other, and publicly declare to the world, that if any belligerent power shall seize or molest any ship or vessel belonging to the citizens or subjects of any of the powers composing that Association, that the whole Association will shut its ports against the flag of the offending nation, and will not permit any goods, wares, or merchandise, produced or manufactured in the offending nation, or appertaining thereto, to be imported into any of the ports included in the Association, until reparation be made to the injured party,—the reparation to be three times the value of the vessel and cargo,—and moreover that all remittances on money, goods, and bills of exchange, do cease to be made to the offending nation, until the said reparation be made: were the neutral nations only to do this, which it is their direct interest to do, England, as a nation depending on the commerce of neutral nations in time of war, dare not molest them, and France would not. But whilst, from the want of a common system, they individually permit England to do it, because individually they cannot resist it, they put France under the necessity of doing the same thing. The supreme of all laws, in all cases, is that of self-preservation.
As the commerce of neutral nations would thus be protected by the means that commerce naturally contains within itself, all the naval operations of France and England would be confined within the circle of acting against each other: and in that case it needs no spirit of prophecy to discover that France must finally prevail. The sooner this be done, the better will it be for both nations, and for all the world.
1 Paine had already prepared his "Maritime Compact," and devised the Rainbow Flag, which was to protect commerce, the substance and history of which constitutes his Seventh Letter to the People of the United States, Chapter XXXIII. of the present volume. He sent the articles of his proposed international Association to the Minister of Foreign Relations, Talleyrand, who responded with a cordial letter. The articles of "Maritime Compact," translated into French by Nicolas Bouneville, were, in 1800, sent to all the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Europe, and to the ambassadors in Paris.—Editor.,
XXX. THE RECALL OF MONROE. (1)
1 Monroe, like Edmund Randolph and Thomas Paine, was sacrificed to the new commercial alliance with Great Britain. The Cabinet of Washington were entirely hostile to France, and in their determination to replace Monroe were assisted by Gouverneur Morris, still in Europe, who wrote to President Washington calumnies against that Minister. In a letter of December 19, 1795, Morris tells Washington that he had heard from a trusted informant that Monroe had said to several Frenchmen that "he had no doubt but that, if they would do what was proper here, he and his friends would turn out Washington." On July 2, 1796, the Cabinet ministers, Pickering, Wolcott, and Mo-Henry, wrote to the President their joint opinion that the interests of the United States required Monroe's recall, and slanderously connected him with anonymous letters from France written by M. Montflorence. The recall, dated August 22, 1796, reached Monroe early in November. It alluded to certain "concurring circumstances," which induced his removal, and these "hidden causes" (in Paine's phrase) Monroe vainly demanded on his return to America early in 1797. The Directory, on notification of Monroe's recall, resolved not to recognize his successor, and the only approach to an American Minister in Paris for the remainder of the century was Thomas Paine, who was consulted by the Foreign Ministers, De la Croix and Talleyrand, and by Napoleon. On the approach of C. C. Pinckney, as successor to Monroe, Paine feared that his dismissal might entail war, and urged the Minister (De la Croix) to regard Pinckney,—nominated in a recess of the Senate,—as in "suspension" until confirmed by that body. There might be unofficial "pourparlers," with him. This letter (State Archives, Paris, Etats Unis, vol. 46, fol. 425) was considered for several days before Pinckney reached Paris (December 5, 1796), but the Directory considered that it was not a "dignified" course, and Pinckney was ordered to leave French territory, under the existing decree against foreigners who had no permit to remain.—Editor..
Paris, Sept. 27, 1797. Editors of the Bien-in forme.
Citizens: in your 19th number of the complementary 5th, you gave an analysis of the letters of James Monroe to Timothy Pickering. The newspapers of Paris and the departments have copied this correspondence between the ambassador of the United States and the Secretary of State. I notice, however, that a few of them have omitted some important facts, whilst indulging in comments of such an extraordinary nature that it is clear they know neither Monroe's integrity nor the intrigues of Pitt in this affair.
The recall of Monroe is connected with circumstances so important to the interests of France and the United States, that we must be careful not to confound it with the recall of an ordinary individual. The Washington faction had affected to spread it abroad that James Monroe was the cause of rupture between the two Republics. This accusation is a perfidious and calumnious one; since the main point in this affair is not so much the recall of a worthy, enlightened and republican minister, as the ingratitude and clandestine manoeuvering of the government of Washington, who caused the misunderstanding by signing a treaty injurious to the French Republic.
James Monroe, in his letters, does not deny the right of government to withdraw its confidence from any one of its delegates, representatives, or agents. He has hinted, it is true, that caprice and temper are not in accordance with the spirit of paternal rule, and that whenever a representative government punishes or rewards, good faith, integrity and justice should replace the good pleasure of Kings.
In the present case, they have done more than recall an agent. Had they confined themselves to depriving him of his appointment, James Monroe would have kept silence; but he has been accused of lighting the torch of discord in both Republics. The refutation of this absurd and infamous reproach is the chief object of his correspondence. If he did not immediately complain of these slanders in his letters of the 6th and 8th [July], it is because he wished to use at first a certain degree of caution, and, if it were possible, to stifle intestine troubles at their birth. He wished to reopen the way to peaceful negotiations to be conducted with good faith and justice.
The arguments of the Secretary of State on the rights of the supreme administration of the United States are peremptory; but the observations of Monroe on the hidden causes of his recall are touching; they come from the heart; they are characteristic of an excellent citizen. If he does more than complain of his unjust recall as a man of feeling would; if he proudly asks for proofs of a grave accusation, it is after he has tried in vain every honest and straightforward means. He will not suffer that a government, sold to the enemies of freedom, should discharge upon him its shame, its crimes, its ingratitude, and all the odium of its unjust dealings.
Were Monroe to find himself an object of public hatred, the Republican party in the United States, that party which is the sincere ally of France, would be annihilated, and this is the aim of the English government.
Imagine the triumph of Pitt, if Monroe and the other friends of freedom in America, should be unjustly attacked in France!
Monroe does not lay his cause before the Senate since the Senate itself ratified the unconstitutional treaty; he appeals to the house of Representatives, and at the same time lays his cause before the upright tribunal of the American nation.
XXXI. PRIVATE LETTER TO PRESIDENT JEFFERSON.
Paris, October 1, 1800.
Dear Sir,—I wrote to you from Havre by the ship Dublin Packet in the year 1797. It was then my intention to return to America; but there were so many British frigates cruising in sight of the port, and which after a few days knew that I was at Havre waiting to go to America, that I did not think it best to trust myself to their discretion, and the more so, as I had no confidence in the captain of the Dublin Packet (Clay).(1) I mentioned to you in that letter, which I believe you received thro' the hands of Colonel [Aaron] Burr, that I was glad since you were not President that you had accepted the nomination of Vice President.
The Commissioners Ellsworth & Co.(2) have been here about eight months, and three more useless mortals never came upon public business. Their presence appears to me to have been rather an injury than a benefit. They set themselves up for a faction as soon as they arrived. I was then in Belgia.(3) Upon my return to Paris I learnt they had made a point of not returning the visits of Mr. Skipwith and Barlow, because, they said, they had not the confidence of the executive. Every known republican was treated in the same manner. I learned from Mr. Miller of Philadelphia, who had occasion to see them upon business, that they did not intend to return my visit, if I made one. This, I supposed, it was intended I should know, that I might not make one. It had the contrary effect. I went to see Mr. Ellsworth. I told him, I did not come to see him as a commissioner, nor to congratulate him upon his mission; that I came to see him because I had formerly known him in Congress. "I mean not," said I, "to press you with any questions, or to engage you in any conversation upon the business you are come upon, but I will nevertheless candidly say that I know not what expectations the Government or the people of America may have of your mission, or what expectations you may have yourselves, but I believe you will find you can do but little. The treaty with England lies at the threshold of all your business. The American Government never did two more foolish things than when it signed that Treaty and recalled Mr. Monroe, who was the only man could do them any service." Mr. Ellsworth put on the dull gravity of a Judge, and was silent. I added, "You may perhaps make a treaty like that you have made with England, which is a surrender of the rights of the American flag; for the principle that neutral ships make neutral property must be general or not at all." I then changed the subject, for I had all the talk to myself upon this topic, and enquired after Samuel Adams, (I asked nothing about John,) Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Monroe, and others of my friends; and the melancholy case of the yellow fever,—of which he gave me as circumstantial an account as if he had been summing up a case to a Jury. Here my visit ended, and had Mr. Ellsworth been as cunning as a statesman, or as wise as a Judge, he would have returned my visit that he might appear insensible of the intention of mine.
1 The packet was indeed searched for Paine by a British cruiser.—Editor.
2 Oliver Ellsworth (Chief Justice), W. V. Murray, and W. R. Davie, were sent by President Adams to France to negotiate a treaty. In this they failed, but a convention was signed September 30, 1800, which terminated the treaty of 1778, which had become a source of discord, and prepared the way for the negotiations of Livingston and Monroe in 1803.— Editor.
3 Paine had visited his room-mate in Luxembourg prison, Vanhuele, who was now Mayor of Bruges.—Editor..
I now come to the affairs of this country and of Europe. You will, I suppose, have heard before this arrives to you, of the battle of Marengo in Italy, where the Austrians were defeated—of the armistice in consequence thereof, and the surrender of Milan, Genoa etc. to the french—of the successes of the french Army in Germany—and the extension of the armistice in that quarter—of the preliminaries of Peace signed at Paris—of the refusal of the Emperor [of Austria] to ratify these preliminaries—of the breaking of the armistice by the french Government in consequence of that refusal—of the "gallant" expedition of the Emperor to put himself at the head of his Army—of his pompous arrival there—of his having made his will—of prayers being put in all his churches for the preservation of the life of this Hero—of General Moreau announcing to him, immediately on his arrival at the Army, that hostilities would commence the day after the next at sunrise unless he signed the treaty or gave security that he would sign within 45 days—of his surrendering up three of the principal keys of Germany (Ulm, Philipsbourg, and Ingolstadt) as security that he would sign them. This is the state things are now in, at the time of writing this letter; but it is proper to add that the refusal of the Emperor to sign the preliminaries was motived upon a note from the King of England to be admitted to the Congress for negociating Peace, which was consented to by the french upon the condition of an armistice at Sea, which England, before knowing of the surrender the Emperor had made, had refused. From all which it appears to me, judging from circumstances, that the Emperor is now so compleatly in the hands of the french, that he has no way of getting out but by a peace. The Congress for the peace is to be held at Luneville, a town in France. Since the affair of Rastadt the French commissioners will not trust themselves within the Emperor's territory.
I now come to domestic Affairs. I know not what the Commissioners have done, but from a paper I enclose to you, which appears to have some authority, it is not much. The paper as you will perceive is considerably prior to this letter. I know that the Commissioners before this piece appeared intended setting off. It is therefore probable that what they have done is conformable to what this paper mentions, which certainly will not atone for the expence their mission has incurred, neither are they, by all the accounts I hear of them, men fitted for the business.
But independently of these matters there appears to be a state of circumstances rising, which if it goes on, will render all partial treaties unnecessary. In the first place I doubt if any peace will be made with England; and in the second place, I should not wonder to see a coalition formed against her, to compel her to abandon her insolence on the seas. This brings me to speak of the manuscripts I send you.
The piece No. I, without any title, was written in consequence of a question put to me by Bonaparte. As he supposed I knew England and English Politics he sent a person to me to ask, that in case of negociating a Peace with Austria, whether it would be proper to include England. This was when Count St. Julian was in Paris, on the part of the Emperor negociating the preliminaries:—which as I have before said the Emperor refused to sign on the pretence of admitting England.
The piece No. 2, entitled On the Jacobinism of the English at sea, was written when the English made their insolent and impolitic expedition to Denmark, and is also an auxiliary to the politic of No. I. I shewed it to a friend [Bonneville] who had it translated into french, and printed in the form of a Pamphlet, and distributed gratis among the foreign Ministers, and persons in the Government. It was immediately copied into several of the french Journals, and into the official Paper, the Moniteur. It appeared in this paper one day before the last dispatch arrived from Egypt; which agreed perfectly with what I had said respecting Egypt. It hit the two cases of Denmark and Egypt in the exact proper moment.
The Piece No. 3, entitled Compact Maritime, is the sequel of No. 2, digested in form. It is translating at the time I write this letter, and I am to have a meeting with the Senator Garat upon the subject. The pieces 2 and 3 go off in manuscript to England, by a confidential person, where they will be published.(1)
1 The substance of most of these "pieces" are embodied in Paine's Seventh Letter to the People of the United States (infra p. 420).—Editor.
By all the news we get from the North there appears to be something meditating against England. It is now given for certain that Paul has embargoed all the English vessels and English property in Russia till some principle be established for protecting the Rights of neutral Nations, and securing the liberty of the Seas. The preparations in Denmark continue, notwithstanding the convention that she has made with England, which leaves the question with respect to the right set up by England to stop and search Neutral vessels undecided. I send you the paragraphs upon the subject.
The tumults are great in all parts of England on account of the excessive price of corn and bread, which has risen since the harvest. I attribute it more to the abundant increase of paper, and the non-circulation of cash, than to any other cause. People in trade can push the paper off as fast as they receive it, as they did by continental money in America; but as farmers have not this opportunity, they endeavor to secure themselves by going considerably in advance.
I have now given you all the great articles of intelligence, for I trouble not myself with little ones, and consequently not with the Commissioners, nor any thing they are about, nor with John Adams, otherwise than to wish him safe home, and a better and wiser man in his place.
In the present state of circumstances and the prospects arising from them, it may be proper for America to consider whether it is worth her while to enter into any treaty at this moment, or to wait the event of those circumstances which if they go on will render partial treaties useless by deranging them. But if, in the mean time, she enters into any treaty it ought to be with a condition to the following purpose: Reserving to herself the right of joining in an Association of Nations for the protection of the Rights of Neutral Commerce and the security of the liberty of the Seas.
The pieces 2, 3, may go to the press. They will make a small pamphlet and the printers are welcome to put my name to it. (It is best it should be put.) From thence they will get into the newspapers. I know that the faction of John Adams abuses me pretty heartily. They are welcome.
It does not disturb me, and they lose their labour; and in return for it I am doing America more service, as a neutral Nation, than their expensive Commissioners can do, and she has that service from me for nothing. The piece No. 1 is only for your own amusement and that of your friends.
I come now to speak confidentially to you on a private subject. When Mr. Ellsworth and Davie return to America, Murray will return to Holland, and in that case there will be nobody in Paris but Mr. Skipwith that has been in the habit of transacting business with the french Government since the revolution began. He is on a good standing with them, and if the chance of the day should place you in the presidency you cannot do better than appoint him for any purpose you may have occasion for in France. He is an honest man and will do his country justice, and that with civility and good manners to the government he is commissioned to act with; a faculty which that Northern Bear Timothy Pickering wanted, and which the Bear of that Bear, John Adams, never possessed.
I know not much of Mr. Murray, otherwise than of his unfriendliness to every American who is not of his faction, but I am sure that Joel Barlow is a much fitter man to be in Holland than Mr. Murray. It is upon the fitness of the man to the place that I speak, for I have not communicated a thought upon the subject to Barlow, neither does he know, at the time of my writing this (for he is at Havre), that I have intention to do it.
I will now, by way of relief, amuse you with some account of the progress of iron bridges.
[Here follows an account of the building of the iron bridge at Sunderland, England, and some correspondence with Mr. Milbanke, M. P., which will be given more fully and precisely in a chapter of vol. IV. (Appendix), on Iron Bridges, and is therefore omitted here.]
I have now made two other Models [of bridges]. One is pasteboard, five feet span and five inches of height from the cords. It is in the opinion of every person who has seen it one of the most beautiful objects the eye can behold. I then cast a model in metal following the construction of that in paste-board and of the same dimensions. The whole was executed in my own Chamber. It is far superior in strength, elegance, and readiness in execution to the model I made in America, and which you saw in Paris.(1) I shall bring those models with me when I come home, which will be as soon as I can pass the seas in safety from the piratical John Bulls. I suppose you have seen, or have heard of the Bishop of Landaff's answer to my second part of the Age of Reason. As soon as I got a copy of it I began a third part, which served also as an answer to the Bishop; but as soon as the clerical society for promoting Christian Knowledge knew of my intention to answer the Bishop, they prosecuted, as a Society, the printer of the first and second parts, to prevent that answer appearing. No other reason than this can be assigned for their prosecuting at the time they did, because the first part had been in circulation above three years and the second part more than one, and they prosecuted immediately on knowing that I was taking up their Champion. The Bishop's answer, like Mr. Burke's attack on the french revolution, served me as a back-ground to bring forward other subjects upon, with more advantage than if the background was not there. This is the motive that induced me to answer him, otherwise I should have gone on without taking any notice of him. I have made and am still making additions to the manuscript, and shall continue to do so till an opportunity arrive for publishing it.
1 "These models exhibit an extraordinary degree not only of skill, but of taste, and are wrought with extreme delicacy entirely by his own hands. The largest is nearly four feet in length; the iron-works, the chains, and every other article belonging to it, were forged and manufactured by himself. It is intended as the model of a bridge which is to be constructed across the Delaware, extending 480 feet, with only one arch. The other is to be erected over a lesser river, whose name I forget, and is likewise a single arch, and of his own workmanship, excepting the chains, which, instead of iron, are cut out of paste-hoard by the fair hand of his correspondent, the 'Little Corner of the World' (Lady Smyth), whose indefatigable perseverance is extraordinary. He was offered L3000 for these models and refused it."— Yorke's Letters from France, These models excited much admiration in Washington and Philadelphia. They remained for a long time in Peale's Museum at Philadelphia, but no trace is left of them.—Editor.
If any American frigate should come to france, and the direction of it fall to you, I will be glad you would give me the opportunity of returning. The abscess under which I suffered almost two years is entirely healed of itself, and I enjoy exceeding good health. This is the first of October, and Mr. Skipwith has just called to tell me the Commissioners set off for Havre to-morrow. This will go by the frigate but not with the knowledge of the Commissioners. Remember me with much affection to my friends and accept the same to yourself.
XXXII. PROPOSAL THAT LOUISIANA BE PURCHASED.(1)
(SENT TO THE PRESIDENT, CHRISTMAS DAY, 1802.)
1 Paine, being at Lovell's Hotel, Washington, suggested the purchase of Louisiana to Dr. Michael Leib, representative from Pennsylvania, who, being pleased with the idea, suggested that he should write it to Jefferson. On the day after its reception the President told Paine that "measures were already taken in that business."—Editor..
Spain has ceded Louisiana to France, and France has excluded Americans from New Orleans, and the navigation of the Mississippi. The people of the Western Territory have complained of it to their Government, and the Government is of consequence involved and interested in the affair. The question then is—What is the best step to be taken?
The one is to begin by memorial and remonstrance against an infraction of a right. The other is by accommodation,—still keeping the right in view, but not making it a groundwork.
Suppose then the Government begin by making a proposal to France to re-purchase the cession made to her by Spain, of Louisiana, provided it be with the consent of the people of Louisiana, or a majority thereof.
By beginning on this ground any thing can be said without carrying the appearance of a threat. The growing power of the Western Territory can be stated as a matter of information, and also the impossibility of restraining them from seizing upon New Orleans, and the equal impossibility of France to prevent it.
Suppose the proposal attended to, the sum to be given comes next on the carpet. This, on the part of America, will be estimated between the value of the commerce and the quantity of revenue that Louisiana will produce.
The French Treasury is not only empty, but the Government has consumed by anticipation a great part of the next year's revenue. A monied proposal will, I believe, be attended to; if it should, the claims upon France can be stipulated as part of the payment, and that sum can be paid here to the claimants.
——I congratulate you on The Birthday of the New Sun,
now called Christmas Day; and I make you a present of a thought on Louisiana.
XXXIII. THOMAS PAINE TO THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES,
And particularly to the Leaders of the Federal Faction, LETTER I.(1)
1 The National Intelligencer, November 15th. The venerable Mr. Gales, so long associated with this paper, had been in youth a prosecuted adherent of Paine in Sheffield, England. The paper distinguished itself by the kindly welcome it gave Paine on his return to America. (See issues of Nov. 3 and 10, 1802.) Paine landed at Baltimore, Oct. 30th.—Editor.,
After an absence of almost fifteen years, I am again returned to the country in whose dangers I bore my share, and to whose greatness I contributed my part.
When I sailed for Europe, in the spring of 1787, it was my intention to return to America the next year, and enjoy in retirement the esteem of my friends, and the repose I was entitled to. I had stood out the storm of one revolution, and had no wish to embark in another. But other scenes and other circumstances than those of contemplated ease were allotted to me. The French revolution was beginning to germinate when I arrived in France. The principles of it were good, they were copied from America, and the men who conducted it were honest. But the fury of faction soon extinguished the one, and sent the other to the scaffold. Of those who began that revolution, I am almost the only survivor, and that through a thousand dangers. I owe this not to the prayers of priests, nor to the piety of hypocrites, but to the continued protection of Providence.
But while I beheld with pleasure the dawn of liberty rising in Europe, I saw with regret the lustre of it fading in America. In less than two years from the time of my departure some distant symptoms painfully suggested the idea that the principles of the revolution were expiring on the soil that produced them. I received at that time a letter from a female literary correspondent, and in my answer to her, I expressed my fears on that head.(1)
I now know from the information I obtain upon the spot, that the impressions that then distressed me, for I was proud of America, were but too well founded. She was turning her back on her own glory, and making hasty strides in the retrograde path of oblivion. But a spark from the altar of Seventy-six, unextinguished and unextinguishable through the long night of error, is again lighting up, in every part of the Union, the genuine name of rational liberty.
As the French revolution advanced, it fixed the attention of the world, and drew from the pensioned pen (2) of Edmund Burke a furious attack. This brought me once more on the public theatre of politics, and occasioned the pamphlet Rights of Man. It had the greatest run of any work ever published in the English language. The number of copies circulated in England, Scotland, and Ireland, besides translations into foreign languages, was between four and five hundred thousand. The principles of that work were the same as those in Common Sense, and the effects would have been the same in England as that had produced in America, could the vote of the nation been quietly taken, or had equal opportunities of consulting or acting existed. The only difference between the two works was, that the one was adapted to the local circumstances of England, and the other to those of America. As to myself, I acted in both cases alike; I relinquished to the people of England, as I had done to those of America, all profits from the work. My reward existed in the ambition to do good, and the independent happiness of my own mind.
1 Paine here quotes a passage from his letter to Mrs. Few, already given in the Memorial to Monroe (XXI.). The entire letter to Mrs. Few will be printed in the Appendix to Vol. IV. of this work.—Editor.
2 See editorial note p. 95 in this volume.—Editor.
But a faction, acting in disguise, was rising in America; they had lost sight of first principles. They were beginning to contemplate government as a profitable monopoly, and the people as hereditary property. It is, therefore, no wonder that the Rights of Man was attacked by that faction, and its author continually abused. But let them go on; give them rope enough and they will put an end to their own insignificance. There is too much common sense and independence in America to be long the dupe of any faction, foreign or domestic.
But, in the midst of the freedom we enjoy, the licentiousness of the papers called Federal, (and I know not why they are called so, for they are in their principles anti-federal and despotic,) is a dishonour to the character of the country, and an injury to its reputation and importance abroad. They represent the whole people of America as destitute of public principle and private manners. As to any injury they can do at home to those whom they abuse, or service they can render to those who employ them, it is to be set down to the account of noisy nothingness. It is on themselves the disgrace recoils, for the reflection easily presents itself to every thinking mind, that those who abuse liberty when they possess it would abuse power could they obtain it; and, therefore, they may as well take as a general motto, for all such papers, We and our patrons are not fit to be trusted with power.
There is in America, more than in any other country, a large body of people who attend quietly to their farms, or follow their several occupations; who pay no regard to the clamours of anonymous scribblers, who think for themselves, and judge of government, not by the fury of newspaper writers, but by the prudent frugality of its measures, and the encouragement it gives to the improvement and prosperity of the country; and who, acting on their own judgment, never come forward in an election but on some important occasion. When this body moves, all the little barkings of scribbling and witless curs pass for nothing. To say to this independent description of men, "You must turn out such and such persons at the next election, for they have taken off a great many taxes, and lessened the expenses of government, they have dismissed my son, or my brother, or myself, from a lucrative office, in which there was nothing to do"—is to show the cloven foot of faction, and preach the language of ill-disguised mortification. In every part of the Union, this faction is in the agonies of death, and in proportion as its fate approaches, gnashes its teeth and struggles. My arrival has struck it as with an hydrophobia, it is like the sight of water to canine madness.
As this letter is intended to announce my arrival to my friends, and to my enemies if I have any, for I ought to have none in America, and as introductory to others that will occasionally follow, I shall close it by detailing the line of conduct I shall pursue.
I have no occasion to ask, and do not intend to accept, any place or office in the government.(1) There is none it could give me that would be any ways equal to the profits I could make as an author, for I have an established fame in the literary world, could I reconcile it to my principles to make money by my politics or religion. I must be in every thing what I have ever been, a disinterested volunteer; my proper sphere of action is on the common floor of citizenship, and to honest men I give my hand and my heart freely.
1 The President (Jefferson) being an intimate friend of Paine, and suspected, despite his reticence, of sympathizing with Paine's religions views, was included in the denunciations of Paine ("The Two Toms" they were called), and Paine here goes out of his way to soften matters for Jefferson.—Editor..
I have some manuscript works to publish, of which I shall give proper notice, and some mechanical affairs to bring forward, that will employ all my leisure time. I shall continue these letters as I see occasion, and as to the low party prints that choose to abuse me, they are welcome; I shall not descend to answer them. I have been too much used to such common stuff to take any notice of it. The government of England honoured me with a thousand martyrdoms, by burning me in effigy in every town in that country, and their hirelings in America may do the same.
City of Washington.
As the affairs of the country to which I am returned are of more importance to the world, and to me, than of that I have lately left, (for it is through the new world the old must be regenerated, if regenerated at all,) I shall not take up the time of the reader with an account of scenes that have passed in France, many of which are painful to remember and horrid to relate, but come at once to the circumstances in which I find America on my arrival.
Fourteen years, and something more, have produced a change, at least among a part of the people, and I ask my-self what it is? I meet or hear of thousands of my former connexions, who are men of the same principles and friendships as when I left them. But a non-descript race, and of equivocal generation, assuming the name of Federalist,—a name that describes no character of principle good or bad, and may equally be applied to either,—has since started up with the rapidity of a mushroom, and like a mushroom is withering on its rootless stalk. Are those men federalized to support the liberties of their country or to overturn them? To add to its fair fame or riot on its spoils? The name contains no defined idea. It is like John Adams's definition of a Republic, in his letter to Mr. Wythe of Virginia.(2) It is, says he, an empire of laws and not of men. But as laws may be bad as well as good, an empire of laws may be the best of all governments or the worst of all tyrannies. But John Adams is a man of paradoxical heresies, and consequently of a bewildered mind. He wrote a book entitled, "A Defence of the American Constitutions," and the principles of it are an attack upon them. But the book is descended to the tomb of forgetfulness, and the best fortune that can attend its author is quietly to follow its fate. John was not born for immortality. But, to return to Federalism.
1 National Intelligencer, Nov. 23d, 1802.—Editor.
2 Chancellor Wythe, 1728-1806.—Editor. vol m—"5
In the history of parties and the names they assume, it often happens that they finish by the direct contrary principles with which they profess to begin, and thus it has happened with Federalism.
During the time of the old Congress, and prior to the establishment of the federal government, the continental belt was too loosely buckled. The several states were united in name but not in fact, and that nominal union had neither centre nor circle. The laws of one state frequently interferred with, and sometimes opposed, those of another. Commerce between state and state was without protection, and confidence without a point to rest on. The condition the country was then in, was aptly described by Pelatiah Webster, when he said, "thirteen staves and ne'er a hoop will not make a barrel."(1)
If, then, by Federalist is to be understood one who was for cementing the Union by a general government operating equally over all the States, in all matters that embraced the common interest, and to which the authority of the States severally was not adequate, for no one State can make laws to bind another; if, I say, by a Federalist is meant a person of this description, (and this is the origin of the name,) I ought to stand first on the list of Federalists, for the proposition for establishing a general government over the Union, came originally from me in 1783, in a written Memorial to Chancellor Livingston, then Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Congress, Robert Morris, Minister of Finance, and his associate, Gouverneur Morris, all of whom are now living; and we had a dinner and conference at Robert Morris's on the subject. The occasion was as follows:
Congress had proposed a duty of five per cent, on imported articles, the money to be applied as a fund towards paying the interest of loans to be borrowed in Holland. The resolve was sent to the several States to be enacted into a law. Rhode Island absolutely refused. I was at the trouble of a journey to Rhode Island to reason with them on the subject.(2) Some other of the States enacted it with alterations, each one as it pleased. Virginia adopted it, and afterwards repealed it, and the affair came to nothing.
1 "Like a stare in a cask well bound with hoops, it [the individual State] stands firmer, is not so easily shaken, bent, or broken, as it would be were it set up by itself alone."—Pelatiah Webster, 1788. See Paul L. Ford's Pamphlets cm the Constitution, etc., p. 128.—Editor
2 See my "Life of Paine." vol i., p. 103.—Editor,
It was then visible, at least to me, that either Congress must frame the laws necessary for the Union, and send them to the several States to be enregistered without any alteration, which would in itself appear like usurpation on one part and passive obedience on the other, or some method must be devised to accomplish the same end by constitutional principles; and the proposition I made in the memorial was, to add a continental legislature to Congress, to be elected by the several States. The proposition met the full approbation of the gentlemen to whom it was addressed, and the conversation turned on the manner of bringing it forward. Gouverneur Morris, in walking with me after dinner, wished me to throw out the idea in the newspaper; I replied, that I did not like to be always the proposer of new things, that it would have too assuming an appearance; and besides, that I did not think the country was quite wrong enough to be put right. I remember giving the same reason to Dr. Rush, at Philadelphia, and to General Gates, at whose quarters I spent a day on my return from Rhode Island; and I suppose they will remember it, because the observation seemed to strike them.(1)
1 The Letter Books of Robert Morris (16 folio volumes, which should be in our national Archives) contain many entries relating to Paine's activity in the public service. Under date Aug. 21, 1783, about the time referred to by Paine in this letter, Robert Morris mentions a conversation with him on public affairs. I am indebted to General Meredith Read, owner of these Morris papers, for permission to examine them.—Editor..
But the embarrassments increasing, as they necessarily must from the want of a better cemented union, the State of Virginia proposed holding a commercial convention, and that convention, which was not sufficiently numerous, proposed that another convention, with more extensive and better defined powers, should be held at Philadelphia, May 10, 1787.
When the plan of the Federal Government, formed by this Convention, was proposed and submitted to the consideration of the several States, it was strongly objected to in each of them. But the objections were not on anti-federal grounds, but on constitutional points. Many were shocked at the idea of placing what is called Executive Power in the hands of a single individual. To them it had too much the form and appearance of a military government, or a despotic one. Others objected that the powers given to a president were too great, and that in the hands of an ambitious and designing man it might grow into tyranny, as it did in England under Oliver Cromwell, and as it has since done in France. A Republic must not only be so in its principles, but in its forms. The Executive part of the Federal government was made for a man, and those who consented, against their judgment, to place Executive Power in the hands of a single individual, reposed more on the supposed moderation of the person they had in view, than on the wisdom of the measure itself.
Two considerations, however, overcame all objections. The one was, the absolute necessity of a Federal Government. The other, the rational reflection, that as government in America is founded on the representative system any error in the first essay could be reformed by the same quiet and rational process by which the Constitution was formed, and that either by the generation then living, or by those who were to succeed. If ever America lose sight of this principle, she will no longer be the land of liberty. The father will become the assassin of the rights of the son, and his descendants be a race of slaves.
As many thousands who were minors are grown up to manhood since the name of Federalist began, it became necessary, for their information, to go back and show the origin of the name, which is now no longer what it originally was; but it was the more necessary to do this, in order to bring forward, in the open face of day, the apostacy of those who first called themselves Federalists.
To them it served as a cloak for treason, a mask for tyranny. Scarcely were they placed in the seat of power and office, than Federalism was to be destroyed, and the representative system of government, the pride and glory of America, and the palladium of her liberties, was to be overthrown and abolished. The next generation was not to be free. The son was to bend his neck beneath the father's foot, and live, deprived of his rights, under hereditary control. Among the men of this apostate description, is to be ranked the ex-president John Adams. It has been the political career of this man to begin with hypocrisy, proceed with arrogance, and finish in contempt. May such be the fate of all such characters.
I have had doubts of John Adams ever since the year 1776. In a conversation with me at that time, concerning the pamphlet Common Sense, he censured it because it attacked the English form of government. John was for independence because he expected to be made great by it; but it was not difficult to perceive, for the surliness of his temper makes him an awkward hypocrite, that his head was as full of kings, queens, and knaves, as a pack of cards. But John has lost deal.
When a man has a concealed project in his brain that he wants to bring forward, and fears will not succeed, he begins with it as physicians do by suspected poison, try it first on an animal; if it agree with the stomach of the animal, he makes further experiments, and this was the way John took. His brain was teeming with projects to overturn the liberties of America, and the representative system of government, and he began by hinting it in little companies. The secretary of John Jay, an excellent painter and a poor politician, told me, in presence of another American, Daniel Parker, that in a company where himself was present, John Adams talked of making the government hereditary, and that as Mr. Washington had no children, it should be made hereditary in the family of Lund Washington.(1) John had not impudence enough to propose himself in the first instance, as the old French Normandy baron did, who offered to come over to be king of America, and if Congress did not accept his offer, that they would give him thirty thousand pounds for the generosity of it(2); but John, like a mole, was grubbing his way to it under ground. He knew that Lund Washington was unknown, for nobody had heard of him, and that as the president had no children to succeed him, the vice-president had, and if the treason had succeeded, and the hint with it, the goldsmith might be sent for to take measure of the head of John or of his son for a golden wig. In this case, the good people of Boston might have for a king the man they have rejected as a delegate. The representative system is fatal to ambition.
1 See supra footnote on p. 288.—Editor.
2 See vol. ii. p. 318 of this work.—Editor.
Knowing, as I do, the consummate vanity of John Adams, and the shallowness of his judgment, I can easily picture to myself that when he arrived at the Federal City he was strutting in the pomp of his imagination before the presidential house, or in the audience hall, and exulting in the language of Nebuchadnezzar, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the honour of my Majesty!" But in that unfortunate hour, or soon after, John, like Nebuchadnezzar, was driven from among men, and fled with the speed of a post-horse.
Some of John Adams's loyal subjects, I see, have been to present him with an address on his birthday; but the language they use is too tame for the occasion. Birthday addresses, like birthday odes, should not creep along like mildrops down a cabbage leaf, but roll in a torrent of poetical metaphor. I will give them a specimen for the next year. Here it is—
When an Ant, in travelling over the globe, lift up its foot, and put it again on the ground, it shakes the earth to its centre: but when YOU, the mighty Ant of the East, was born, &c. &c. &c, the centre jumped upon the surface.
This, gentlemen, is the proper style of addresses from well-bred ants to the monarch of the ant hills; and as I never take pay for preaching, praying, politics, or poetry, I make you a present of it. Some people talk of impeaching John Adams; but I am for softer measures. I would keep him to make fun of. He will then answer one of the ends for which he was born, and he ought to be thankful that I am arrived to take his part. I voted in earnest to save the life of one unfortunate king, and I now vote in jest to save another. It is my fate to be always plagued with fools. But to return to Federalism and apostacy.
The plan of the leaders of the faction was to overthrow the liberties of the new world, and place government on the corrupt system of the old. They wanted to hold their power by a more lasting tenure than the choice of their constituents. It is impossible to account for their conduct and the measures they adopted on any other ground. But to accomplish that object, a standing army and a prodigal revenue must be raised; and to obtain these, pretences must be invented to deceive. Alarms of dangers that did not exist even in imagination, but in the direct spirit of lying, were spread abroad. Apostacy stalked through the land in the garb of patriotism, and the torch of treason blinded for a while the flame of liberty.
For what purpose could an army of twenty-five thousand men be wanted? A single reflection might have taught the most credulous that while the war raged between France and England, neither could spare a man to invade America. For what purpose, then, could it be wanted? The case carries its own explanation. It was wanted for the purpose of destroying the representative system, for it could be employed for no other. Are these men Federalists? If they are, they are federalized to deceive and to destroy.
The rage against Dr. Logan's patriotic and voluntary mission to France was excited by the shame they felt at the detection of the false alarms they had circulated. As to the opposition given by the remnant of the faction to the repeal of the taxes laid on during the former administration, it is easily accounted for. The repeal of those taxes was a sentence of condemnation on those who laid them on, and in the opposition they gave in that repeal, they are to be considered in the light of criminals standing on their defence, and the country has passed judgment upon them.
City of Washington, Lovett's Hotel, Nov. 19, 1802.
1 The National Intelligencer, Dec. 29th, 1802.—Editor..
To ELECT, and to REJECT, is the prerogative of a free people.
Since the establishment of Independence, no period has arrived that so decidedly proves the excellence of the representative system of government, and its superiority over every other, as the time we now live in. Had America been cursed with John Adams's hereditary Monarchy or Alexander Hamilton's Senate for life she must have sought, in the doubtful contest of civil war, what she now obtains by the expression of public will. An appeal to elections decides better than an appeal to the sword.
The Reign of Terror that raged in America during the latter end of the Washington administration, and the whole of that of Adams, is enveloped in mystery to me. That there were men in the government hostile to the representative system, was once their boast, though it is now their overthrow, and therefore the fact is established against them. But that so large a mass of the people should become the dupes of those who were loading them with taxes in order to load them with chains, and deprive them of the right of election, can be ascribed only to that species of wildfire rage, lighted up by falsehood, that not only acts without reflection, but is too impetuous to make any.
There is a general and striking difference between the genuine effects of truth itself, and the effects of falsehood believed to be truth. Truth is naturally benign; but falsehood believed to be truth is always furious. The former delights in serenity, is mild and persuasive, and seeks not the auxiliary aid of invention. The latter sticks at nothing. It has naturally no morals. Every lie is welcome that suits its purpose. It is the innate character of the thing to act in this manner, and the criterion by which it may be known, whether in politics or religion. When any thing is attempted to be supported by lying, it is presumptive evidence that the thing so supported is a lie also. The stock on which a lie can be grafted must be of the same species as the graft.
What is become of the mighty clamour of French invasion, and the cry that our country is in danger, and taxes and armies must be raised to defend it? The danger is fled with the faction that created it, and what is worst of all, the money is fled too. It is I only that have committed the hostility of invasion, and all the artillery of popguns are prepared for action. Poor fellows, how they foam! They set half their own partisans in laughter; for among ridiculous things nothing is more ridiculous than ridiculous rage. But I hope they will not leave off. I shall lose half my greatness when they cease to lie.
So far as respects myself, I have reason to believe, and a right to say, that the leaders of the Reign of Terror in America and the leaders of the Reign of Terror in France, during the time of Robespierre, were in character the same sort of men; or how is it to be accounted for, that I was persecuted by both at the same time? When I was voted out of the French Convention, the reason assigned for it was, that I was a foreigner. When Robespierre had me seized in the night, and imprisoned in the Luxembourg, (where I remained eleven months,) he assigned no reason for it. But when he proposed bringing me to the tribunal, which was like sending me at once to the scaffold, he then assigned a reason, and the reason was, for the interests of America as well as of France, "Pour les interets de l'Amerique autant que de la France" The words are in his own hand-writing, and reported to the Convention by the committee appointed to examine his papers, and are printed in their report, with this reflection added to them, "Why Thomas Paine more than another? Because he contributed to the liberty of both worlds."(1)
1 See my "Life of Paine," vol. ii., pp. 79, 81. Also, the historical introduction to XXI., p. 330, of this volume. Robespierre never wrote an idle word. This Paine well knew, as Mirabeau, who said of Robespierre: "That man will go far he believes every word he says."—Editor.
There must have been a coalition in sentiment, if not in fact, between the Terrorists of America and the Terrorists of France, and Robespierre must have known it, or he could not have had the idea of putting America into the bill of accusation against me. Yet these men, these Terrorists of the new world, who were waiting in the devotion of their hearts for the joyful news of my destruction, are the same banditti who are now bellowing in all the hacknied language of hacknied hypocrisy, about humanity, and piety, and often about something they call infidelity, and they finish with the chorus of Crucify him, crucify him. I am become so famous among them, they cannot eat or drink without me. I serve them as a standing dish, and they cannot make up a bill of fare if I am not in it.
But there is one dish, and that the choicest of all, that they have not presented on the table, and it is time they should. They have not yet accused Providence of Infidelity. Yet according to their outrageous piety, she(1) must be as bad as Thomas Paine; she has protected him in all his dangers, patronized him in all his undertakings, encouraged him in all his ways, and rewarded him at last by bringing him in safety and in health to the Promised Land. This is more than she did by the Jews, the chosen people, that they tell us she brought out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage; for they all died in the wilderness, and Moses too.
I was one of the nine members that composed the first Committee of Constitution. Six of them have been destroyed. Sieyes and myself have survived—he by bending with the times, and I by not bending. The other survivor joined Robespierre, he was seized and imprisoned in his turn, and sentenced to transportation. He has since apologized to me for having signed the warrant, by saying he felt himself in danger and was obliged to do it.(2)
1 Is this a "survival" of the goddess Fortuna?—Editor.
2 Barere. His apology to Paine proves that a death- warrant had been issued, for Barere did not sign the order for Paine's arrest or imprisonment.—Editor.
Herault Sechelles, an acquaintance of Mr. Jefferson, and a good patriot, was my suppleant as member of the Committee of Constitution, that is, he was to supply my place, if I had not accepted or had resigned, being next in number of votes to me. He was imprisoned in the Luxembourg with me, was taken to the tribunal and the guillotine, and I, his principal, was left.
There were two foreigners in the Convention, Anarcharsis Clootz and myself. We were both put out of the Convention by the same vote, arrested by the same order, and carried to prison together the same night. He was taken to the guillotine, and I was again left. Joel Barlow was with us when we went to prison.
Joseph Lebon, one of the vilest characters that ever existed, and who made the streets of Arras run with blood, was my suppleant, as member of the Convention for the department of the Pas de Calais. When I was put out of the Convention he came and took my place. When I was liberated from prison and voted again into the Convention, he was sent to the same prison and took my place there, and he was sent to the guillotine instead of me. He supplied my place all the way through.
One hundred and sixty-eight persons were taken out of the Luxembourg in one night, and a hundred and sixty of them guillotined next day, of which I now know I was to have been one; and the manner I escaped that fate is curious, and has all the appearance of accident.
The room in which I was lodged was on the ground floor, and one of a long range of rooms under a gallery, and the door of it opened outward and flat against the wall; so that when it was open the inside of the door appeared outward, and the contrary when it was shut. I had three comrades, fellow prisoners with me, Joseph Vanhuele, of Bruges, since President of the Municipality of that town, Michael Rubyns, and Charles Bastini of Louvain.
When persons by scores and by hundreds were to be taken out of the prison for the guillotine it was always done in the night, and those who performed that office had a private mark or signal, by which they knew what rooms to go to, and what number to take. We, as I have stated, were four, and the door of our room was marked, unobserved by us, with that number in chalk; but it happened, if happening is a proper word, that the mark was put on when the door was open, and flat against the wall, and thereby came on the inside when we shut it at night, and the destroying angel passed by it.(1) A few days after this, Robespierre fell, and Mr. Monroe arrived and reclaimed me, and invited me to his house.
1 Painefs preface to the "Age of Reason" Part IL, and his Letter to Washington (p. 222.) show that for some time after his release from prison he had attributed his escape from the guillotine to a fever which rendered him unconscious at the time when his accusation was demanded by Robespierre; but it will be seen (XXXI.) that he subsequently visited his prison room-mate Vanhuele, who had become Mayor of Bruges, and he may have learned from him the particulars of their marvellous escape. Carlyle having been criticised by John G. Alger for crediting this story of the chalk mark, an exhaustive discussion of the facts took place in the London Athenoum, July 7, 21, August 25, September 1, 1894, in which it was conclusively proved, I think, that there is no reason to doubt the truth of the incident See also my article on Paine's escape, in The Open Court (Chicago), July 26,1894. The discussion in the Athenoum elicited the fact that a tradition had long existed in the family of Sampson Perry that he had shared Paine's cell and been saved by the curious mistake. Such is not the fact. Perry, in his book on the French Revolution, and in his "Argus," told the story of Paine's escape by his illness, as Paine first told it; and he also relates an anecdote which may find place here: "Mr. Paine speaks gratefully of the kindness shown him by his fellow-prisoners of the same chamber during his severe malady, and especially of the skilful and voluntary assistance lent him by General O'Hara's surgeon. He relates an anecdote of himself which may not be unworthy of repeating. An arret of the Committee of Public Welfare had given directions to the administrators of the palace [Luxembourg] to enter all the prisons with additional guards and dispossess every prisoner of his knives, forks, and every other sharp instrument; and also to take their money from them. This happened a short time before Mr. Paine's illness, and as this ceremony was represented to him as an atrocious plunder in the dregs of municipality, he determined to avert its effect so far as it concerned himself. He had an English bank note of some value and gold coin in his pocket, and as he conceived the visitors would rifle them, as well as his trunks (though they did not do so by any one) he took off the lock from his door, and hid the whole of what he had about him in its inside. He recovered his health, he found his money, but missed about three hundred of his associated prisoners, who had been sent in crowds to the murderous tribunal, while he had been insensible of their or his own danger." This was probably the money (L200) loaned by Paine to General O'Hara (who figured at the Yorktown surrender) in prison.—Editor.
During the whole of my imprisonment, prior to the fall of Robespierre, there was no time when I could think my life worth twenty-four hours, and my mind was made up to meet its fate. The Americans in Paris went in a body to the Convention to reclaim me, but without success. There was no party among them with respect to me. My only hope then rested on the government of America, that it would remember me. But the icy heart of ingratitude, in whatever man it be placed, has neither feeling nor sense of honour. The letter of Mr. Jefferson has served to wipe away the reproach, and done justice to the mass of the people of America.(1)
1 Printed in the seventh of this series of Letters.— Editor..
When a party was forming, in the latter end of 1777, and beginning of 1778, of which John Adams was one, to remove Mr. Washington from the command of the army on the complaint that he did nothing, I wrote the fifth number of the Crisis, and published it at Lancaster, (Congress then being at Yorktown, in Pennsylvania,) to ward off that meditated blow; for though I well knew that the black times of '76 were the natural consequence of his want of military judgment in the choice of positions into which the army was put about New York and New Jersey, I could see no possible advantage, and nothing but mischief, that could arise by distracting the army into parties, which would have been the case had the intended motion gone on.
General [Charles] Lee, who with a sarcastic genius joined a great fund of military knowledge, was perfectly right when he said "We have no business on islands, and in the bottom of bogs, where the enemy, by the aid of its ships, can bring its whole force against apart of ours and shut it up." This had like to have been the case at New York, and it was the case at Fort Washington, and would have been the case at Fort Lee if General [Nathaniel] Greene had not moved instantly off on the first news of the enemy's approach. I was with Greene through the whole of that affair, and know it perfectly.
But though I came forward in defence of Mr. Washington when he was attacked, and made the best that could be made of a series of blunders that had nearly ruined the country, he left me to perish when I was in prison. But as I told him of it in his life-time, I should not now bring it up if the ignorant impertinence of some of the Federal papers, who are pushing Mr. Washington forward as their stalking horse, did not make it necessary.
That gentleman did not perform his part in the Revolution better, nor with more honour, than I did mine, and the one part was as necessary as the other. He accepted as a present, (though he was already rich,) a hundred thousand acres of land in America, and left me to occupy six foot of earth in France.(1) I wish, for his own reputation, he had acted with more justice. But it was always known of Mr. Washington, by those who best knew him, that he was of such an icy and death-like constitution, that he neither loved his friends nor hated his enemies. But, be this as it may, I see no reason that a difference between Mr. Washington and me should be made a theme of discord with other people. There are those who may see merit in both, without making themselves partisans of either, and with this reflection I close the subject.
1 Paine was mistaken, as many others were, about the gifts of Virginia (1785) to Washington. They were 100 shares, of $100 each, in the James River Company, and 50 shares, of L100 each, in the Potomac Company. Washington, accepted on condition that he might appropriate them to public uses which was done in his Will.—Editor.
As to the hypocritical abuse thrown out by the Federalists on other subjects, I recommend to them the observance of a commandment that existed before either Christian or Jew existed:
Thou shalt make a covenant with thy senses: With thine eye that it behold no evil, With thine ear, that it hear no evil, With thy tongue, that it speak no evil, With thy hands, that they commit no evil.
If the Federalists will follow this commandment, they will leave off lying.
Federal City, Lovett's Hotel, Nov. 26,1802.
1 The National Intelligencer, Dec. 6th. 1802.—Editor..
As Congress is on the point of meeting, the public papers will necessarily be occupied with the debates of the ensuing session, and as, in consequence of my long absence from America, my private affairs require my attendance, (for it is necessary I do this, or I could not preserve, as I do, my independence,) I shall close my address to the public with this letter.
I congratulate them on the success of the late elections, and that with the additional confidence, that while honest men are chosen and wise measures pursued, neither the treason of apostacy, masked under the name of Federalism, of which I have spoken in my second letter, nor the intrigues of foreign emissaries, acting in concert with that mask, can prevail.
As to the licentiousness of the papers calling themselves Federal, a name that apostacy has taken, it can hurt nobody but the party or the persons who support such papers. There is naturally a wholesome pride in the public mind that revolts at open vulgarity. It feels itself dishonoured even by hearing it, as a chaste woman feels dishonour by hearing obscenity she cannot avoid. It can smile at wit, or be diverted with strokes of satirical humour, but it detests the blackguard. The same sense of propriety that governs in private companies, governs in public life. If a man in company runs his wit upon another, it may draw a smile from some persons present, but as soon as he turns a blackguard in his language the company gives him up; and it is the same in public life. The event of the late election shows this to be true; for in proportion as those papers have become more and more vulgar and abusive, the elections have gone more and more against the party they support, or that supports them. Their predecessor, Porcupine [Cobbett] had wit—these scribblers have none. But as soon as his blackguardism (for it is the proper name of it) outran his wit, he was abandoned by every body but the English Minister who protected him.
The Spanish proverb says, "there never was a cover large enough to hide itself"; and the proverb applies to the case of those papers and the shattered remnant of the faction that supports them. The falsehoods they fabricate, and the abuse they circulate, is a cover to hide something from being seen, but it is not large enough to hide itself. It is as a tub thrown out to the whale to prevent its attacking and sinking the vessel. They want to draw the attention of the public from thinking about, or inquiring into, the measures of the late administration, and the reason why so much public money was raised and expended; and so far as a lie today, and a new one tomorrow, will answer this purpose, it answers theirs. It is nothing to them whether they be believed or not, for if the negative purpose be answered the main point is answered, to them.