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JQA Diary, volume 24 17 March 1795


Neal Millikan

17. Dined at the Baron de Schubart’s; principally with the same company that was at the Sweedish Minister’s the day before yesterday. Richard a new commissioner from the convention has arrived, and was of the company; as was also Baron Bielfeld.

Richard maintained the principal part of the conversation; it was altogether upon the military operations of their armies; one would have thought from his account that they were more than human beings, and he himself infinitely superior to all the heroes of antient or modern times in the art of War. There was indeed one particular in which he was certainly comparable with Hannibal, Sertorius and Claudius Civilis.— Gasconade is a part of his policy too. These people seem to think the rest of the world created for no other purpose than to admire them. All their heads are giddy with their own greatness & power. Pichegru among the Generals, and Cochon of the Representatives from whatever I have seen of them may be admitted as exceptions to this rule. They appear to have the gift of modesty, which is not among the shining qualities of the others.

Richard was prodigiously rapid in his talk; he appeared to be afraid that time would fail him to sing the praises of the Army, and in the course of his eloquence often gave us to understand with those intimations under which Vanity imagines itself sheltered from detection, that he had often been the most important character in the Army: the life the animating principle which inspired such extraordinary efforts.

“People think (“said he”) that we would not make Peace; but they are much mistaken: we are so far from wishing to continue the War, that there is a power of whom we would ask for Peace though we are conquerors: we would say, We have taken from you an immense territory, we have reduced you to the utmost extremity; we will return it all to you, if you will make a peace which shall restore us what was ours; and they would not accept our terms.— They think we are exhausted; that we cannot carry on the war any longer; that we have no further supply of men. Well we shall meet them upon that ground as long as they please. They have said the same thing these three years: our first requisition raised 100,000 men; the second three; the third eight or nine: and now we can raise as many more when we please. Austria, will not be reasonable till she has been beaten a little more severely. Clairfayt must go on in his career, and he has 11excellent troops. This War has been fatal, to many military Reputations, though that of Clairfayt has not suffered. He has been unfortunate, and has not been supported; the generals of both wings in the Austrian Army, have been sacrificed to the Jealousy of the commander in chief: but we have a great esteem for Clairfayt. However, we hope to give a good account of him. They talk about experienced Generals; but in our mode of warfare experience is learned in a campaign; a General does the duty of a soldier, and is in the midst of the action. According to the old fashioned style of war, the General, is at three or four leagues from his army; but how can he manoeuvre to any advantage at that distance. At the beginning of the last campaign, the army of the allies manoeuvred three times to our once; and at the close of it, I am sure we manoeuvred five times to their once.” “Our troops (he continued) scarcely seem subject to the wants of humanity; they live days and even sometimes a week together without food, without clothing, and without sleep. We have no tents, no camp bagage. Often after 16 or 17 hours of battle; worn out, exhausted unable to move our soldiers stretch themselves upon the bare ground, without covering, cold or hot, moist or dry, and enjoy, the sweetest sleep imaginable. I have found it infinitely more delicious than at any other time in bed and under cover.” Here he was interrupted by his colleague Alquier, who said he was not of that opinion, and a little discussion arose upon the subject between them. It did not however detain Richard long; he soon returned to his favourite topic, which he scarcely suspended for a moment from the time we sat down to dinner, until the company broke up.

In the mean time Mr: D’Araujo, had fastened again upon Alquier, and had a very long particular conversation with him, in which the company in General did not participate. After the Representatives were gone, he enquired of me whether there is now any American Vessell going to Spain or Portugal.— I asked him whether he had learned if Peace is made or making between them and France. He said there had been something, done, but it was not finished. He certainly wants to bring forward a negotiation, or to have the appearance of it.

The french Representatives affected to give encouragements to Mr: Midleton, the former Resident from Poland, as to a new Revolution to restore his Country’s Independence: he said the business was too thoroughly done. But they told him to keep up his Spirits, and Alquier toasted “success to his Hopes.” The toast immediately went all round the table, and was pledged by Bielfeld himself. D’Araujo was the only one, who avoided it, and in a good humoured manner recommended to Midleton, to communicate the toast to M: de Kalitcheff, The Russian Minister here, who went away, since the french arrived.

12The Representatives Alquier and Cochon, repeated the strongest assurances, that they meant to give every facility to neutral Commerce and Navigation. That as it respected the United States, this disposition was the result of Sentiment as well as of interest.

Alquier, apologized for not having sent me the answer he had promised me on Sunday and said I should receive it this day; that upon my return home, I should undoubtedly find it there. He invited me to dine with them, sans ceremonie to morrow.

At table I enquired of Mr: Dedem the elder, why they thought proper to interrupt the communication with England, and whether it was like to be restored. He told me, they had the best disposition for it possible, here, but I must be sensible the inclinations of the french representatives must be consulted, and any alteration must be solicited of them.

“Disguise thyself as thou wilt, Slavery! still thou art a bitter draught.” These people french and Dutch, cannot on either side carry through their farce of equality of independence or of republicanism. In the midst of all the forms which they cast around the real substance of things, the respective situations, and the prevalent ideas arising from each, break through upon all occasions. On one side politeness has the garb of condescension on the other it degenerates into flattery; their equality and fraternity are good as a subject of declamation, but there is nothing of it in their manners and practice.

We have left every body quiet here said Alquier “we have disturbed no body. Monsr: the chargé d’Affairs of Prussia can bear us witness to that.” and saying this turned to Bielfeld by way of appeal to him for the truth of what he said. Bielfeld said that certainly he had every possible reason to be content with their treatment of him.”— He remarked this circumstance afterwards to me; and said the fact was certainly true. But Alquier’s politeness would have suffered no diminution, if he had forborn to remind him of it.

Upon my return home I did not find the answer which Alquier had promised me; nor did I receive it this day.