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JQA Diary, volume 24 18 March 1795


Neal Millikan French Revolution Recreation Slavery

18. Dined with the french Representatives, with a numerous company, diplomatic, civil and military. The wife of the Representative Richard, a young and beautiful Woman, was the only Lady present. I was seated at table between Richard, and the Greffier Quarles. Richard told me that he was well acquainted with Mr: Monroe, who was much esteemed and respected in Paris. He spoke of the President in the most respectful terms, and said he was a great man, and deserving of veneration from All Mankind. I told him such was our opinion in America. “And it is the general opinion in France too said he. There may be some exceptions because great pains have been taken to prejudice minds against him, but in general we know from what a perfidious quarter those pains came, and therefore they have been in general unsuccessful. We had a minister in the United States, Genet, who conducted himself imprudently there, and we disavowed all his misconduct— Genet’s intentions I believe were not bad; but he fell into 13bad hands upon his arrival in America, and was impelled to his offensive conduct, by people of the Country, who wanted to produce a discord between your Government and our Minister to serve their personal views. The British fomented it, and were very glad to see the designs of disturbing the friendship between France and the United States. They were at the same time intriguing with us, to make us believe the American Government was hostile to France; it was the detection of some manoeuvres of this kind, which opened the eyes of many people among us, and convinced them, that they had been mistaken in supposing your President unfriendly to our cause. I am sorry for Genet, because he is a man of talents, and meant well I believe though he got led into trouble by bad advisers. We have now sent out Adet, a very able and very excellent man; Fauchet is a man of abilities; but he is a young man, and not equal to an embassy so important as that of the United States: we consider it as an Embassy of the first importance, and have now sent a man, who by his talents and by his manners, will be fully equal to it.

“Upon mention of the late decree of the Convention, restoring the members heretofore outlawed; “yes said he, and I am very glad to hear of it. I want to see every thing disappear of that system which for fourteen months desolated France. I was so fortunate myself to be absent in mission with the armies during almost the whole of that time, and was always glad to be absent in those cruel times.”

He again returned to his favourite topic of the miracles performed by their armies; mentioned that under their former Government they had troops who fought very well in the War of our Independence; [“]but the officers who were then and are now in the service say that the troops do infinitely greater wonders now than they did then. Pichegru himself was to have gone to America, during that War; he was embarked at Cadiz; being then an Officer of Cavalry; but the expedition was countermanded. Our Armies were then fighting for your Liberty, and that gave them an extraordinary ardour; but now they fight for their own, and nothing is impossible to them. We dont allow ourselves in the campaign more than two or three hours sleep in a night; and I remember I once was so totally exhausted, that I fell asleep on my horse in the midst of an action.” Such an instance of indifference to danger, could not possibly be heard without notice and admiration, and to qualify the exalted opinion of his courage, with an idea of modesty equally supernatural, he added “it is true, I was then exposed to the danger only of the cannon. But upon simple marches, I have very often slept three and four hours at a time upon my horse, as we went along. At the beginning of the War, it was absolutely necessary for the Representatives to in mission to be the first to 14expose themselves to every personal danger and every hardship; because the good will of the soldiers to hazard and endure depended very much upon having the example set them, by us. But now it is so universal a thing and they have been so long used to it, that they go on without minding, and often without knowing, whether the Representative is with them or not. Our maxim is that whatever an Army is commanded to do, it must do. So if we have an Enemy before us, we attack; we fight all day but if we have not beat him; we sleep upon the field; as soon as day light appears, we attack again, and continue

fighting in this way until we succeed in our object.”

This is certainly the true system of War which the french armies have pursued: it has been crowned with compleat success, and must necessarily be so when it is practiced by brave men, and a powerful superiority of numbers, but both these circumstances are requisite to give any utility whatever to this art of War. In any other case it must be pernicious and destructive.

We had a band of music playing during the dinner. Richard asked me whether there was much taste for music in America. I told him no; that American Genius was very much addicted to Painting, and we had produced in that Art some of the greatest masters of the Age; but that we had neither cultivated nor were attached much to music. That it had always appeared to me a singular phenomenon in the national character, and I could not account for it otherwise than by supposing it owing to some particular construction of our fibres, that we were created without a strong devotion to music. “Oh! do not say so, (said he) you will be chargeable with high treason, against the character of your Country, for such a sentiment, especially if you were to deliver it to an Italian or french connoisseur, & virtuoso.” [“]I suppose so said I, but then I must rely for my pardon, upon the other tribute which I have paid to my country’s Genius in the article of painting.” [“]As for the rest (I added) I pretend not to trace the cause of the fact, but Music is not an object of enthusiasm in America; and that Marseillaise hymn, that your band are now playing, reminds me of a forcible proof of the fact I have stated. The Americans fought seven years and more for their Liberty: if ever a people had occasion to combine the sensations of Harmony with the Spirit of Patriotism, they had it during that time. Yet there never was during the whole period, a single song written, nor a single tune composed, which electrised every soul, and was resounded by every voice like your patriotic songs.” “That is indeed said he a very strong fact.” I told him that if I could be permitted to cite myself as an instance, I am extremely fond of music, and by dint of great pains have learnt to blow very badly the flute. But could never learn to perform upon the violin, because I never could acquire the art of putting the instrument in tune. That I consoled myself with the idea of being an American and therefore not susceptible of great musical powers; though I must do my countrymen the justice to say that few of them are so very dull as this. That I knew many who had a musical ear, and could tune an instrument with little or no instruction at all.

I know not whether the Representative Richard finally concluded that I was guilty 15of debasing the Genius of my Country, but the American Character needs no speaking-trumpet of Vanity to proclaim its praise. For us the voice of truth and of Justice is enough, and on that ground we shall never dread the test of comparison, with any Nation upon Earth.— In the midst of this discussion an incident occurred which gave a full proof that some of the musical enthusiasm which Richard thought so essential an attribute of the dignified human character, is among the french the result of fashion, and not of an accurate and discerning taste.

Alquier complained that the music performing was bad, and after sometime declared that one of the clarinets was discordant. The director of the band was called, and ordered

to make the harmony more complete. The discord however continued. At length Richard assured Alquier that there was none. That the effect only proceeded from the loudness of the instrument and its proximity. Alquier insisted, and appealed to Madame Richard, who confirmed his judgment. The clarinett was pronounced discordant, and the decision as far as I could judge was just. On one side or the other, a discerning ear was certainly deficient, and both were too much in the ton, not to be enthusiastic musicians; for Alquier made a number of grimaces and shrugged his shoulders, at every grating sound while Richard in the full confidence of delicious enjoyment was positive that there was not a discordant sound.

He returned to the subject of painting; asked me the names of our great painters, and whether they were historical painters. I mentioned among the others Trumbull, and his

design of painting a series to give the History of our War. With his two first pictures and the engravings nearly finished of the Deaths of Warren and Montgomery.

He enquired, whether we had any originals of the Greatest masters of the Schools. I answered very few. “Ah! parbleu (said he) vous me faites venir une idée.” “Yes,” putting his finger to his forehead, as a promise of remembrance “yes” said he “I will remember it. I will not forget this idea.” He paused a moment and then added. “We will send you some; you must form a national Gallery. We will send you a number of very fine pictures. We can do it as well as not, for our Government has got an immense number of them. How do you think such a present would be received?” “No doubt it would be received said I with all the gratitude, that would be due to it.” “Well said he it is a good idea; and I will not forget it.” I believe my promise of gratitude, is as good as his promise of pictures.

I had also some conversation with the Greffier Quarles. He said he should have gone to America had not the late Revolution taken place. Mentioned his having been obliged to resign his former office of deputy Greffier after the Revolution of 1787. That after that he had retired into the Country, and lived as a farmer about five years, untill he was called from his obscurity again by the late change of Affairs

He enquired after my father whom he knew when here. [“]I remember (said he) that 16soon after his admission here as American Minister, I saw him one day, and asked him how he liked the Country &c. He said he had that day remarked a circumstance for which he could not well account. That having occasion to present a memorial to the States General he went in the morning according to Custom and delivered it to the President. That afterwards he had been to visit the Prince Stadholder, and was very much surprized to see the same man who in the morning had received him formally, as President then open the door to him as the Prince’s valet, otherwise called his chamberlain.”

I told him that it was unquestionably an absurdity under their former Government, to see the same day a man acting the double part of head of the Legislative body, and of a personal retainer to the executive chief; but that probably nothing of this kind would be seen under the new order of things, to which he assented.

He enquired respecting Mr: Dumas.— I told him I understood he had demanded, that a Resolution of the States General, past in the 1788. respecting him, and as he thought injurious to his honour, should be rescinded. Enquired whether it had been done. He said no. That some sort of resolution had been taken; but the former record could not be erased, unless I would take some measure in his behalf. That if the Government of the United States would interest themselves in his favour, there was no doubt every attention would be paid to their representations, and appeared desirous that I should embark in the cause. I told him that I was not thoroughly informed of the transaction, and if Mr: Dumas desired the interference of the American Government, I was persuaded he would solicit it.

Richard enquired if there were many french emigrants in America. I told him very few. “Those emigrants are very dangerous people said he. I hope your Government, will keep a watch over them. They have deep designs, and may be intriguing when there is no suspicion of them. Though I am persuaded said he, that a great many people, have been forced to emigrate; who would never have done it from choice, but were driven to it by terror. Have you many of the emigrants of the old monarchy. I answered that I knew of none. “No said he, that is not the Country in which they sought refuge.” There are a few Constitutional emigrants said I. “Yes there is Noailles said he. Noailles went to the public Audience of the President with the old french uniform, and a white cockade, and announced himself as the Vicomte de Noailles, a french Officer. The President told him he knew no Vicomte de Noailles, and no french officer in that uniform. Then he attempted to get introduced to the private audience of the President, but met with an equal repulse there, and the President would not see him.” I know not where he got this Story. I make some question of the facts; but made no observation to him upon the subject.

I enquired of him what is at this time the state of cultivation in France. [“]Greater than ever it was said he. I have just travelled the Country from Paris here. It is every where in an high state of cultivation. The grain is already grown two or three 17Inches high. All France is in an higher State of cultivation than it was before the Revolution; because many hunting grounds have been converted into Grain fields. The English traveller Arthur Young says, that wherever he found a chateau there he found barrenness all round it for some distance; but he would not find it so now. Notwithstanding the great armies we have on foot, men are not wanting for cultivation, because our population was so great heretofore, that five or six men, were taken to do the labour that may be done by one. A peasant for instance would have a certain field to labour with three or four sons; all laboured partially, because none could labour elsewhere. But now the Sons come to the Armies, and the father remains behind, and is able to do all the work himself. Our vineyards are carried to a greater perfection than they have ever been.” He then enquired whether we had vineyards in America. I answered that all attempts to introduce them hitherto had failed. He recommended very strongly perseverance in the attempt, and said we could easily get assistance for the purpose from France. I replied that as long as our people could get foreign wines better and cheaper than they could be raised among ourselves, we should probably not succeed, in raising them at home.— It will be

well to obtain information on this head, but the tale of Williamos is soon told.

After we rose from table I had some conversation with one of the Officers, and one of the Secretaries, their names were unknown to me. Very civil polite people. The Secretary said he believed the English were very glad that the slaves had been freed in the french islands. that he supposed after this War all the West Indies, would be free and independent of any European controul. That by their proximity to a free country, they would naturally imbibe the Spirit of freedom. I told him I somewhat questioned that. That our intercourse with the West-Indies was simply commercial, and we had no political communications with them at all. [“]Then the propagating madness has not reached you said he![”]— [“]Madness said I? do you venture to call it madness? your Government seemed to countenance the System at one period, and even since your arrival here, some of your countrymen, have told me you were very soon going to London—[”] “Oh! yes said he I hope we shall have the pleasure of seeing you there to breakfast; and if you please, we will dine together on the same day at Vienna, and take lodgings that night at Constantinople. But to be serious I hope you will not attribute to the french nation such a wild system as that;” I told him I had always done them more Justice; but I was afraid such an opinion though without foundation would have a tendency to protract the War. They were a conquering Nation; and whatever moderation conquerors might have, it was extremely difficult to establish an opinion of it. “Ah! said he, if we could but conquer our happiness; if we could but become an happy Nation!”

Young Dedem exhibited a great number of views and figures, drawn by him from the life, in Turkey, Greece and Egypt. They were very well drawn, very well coloured, designed with taste, and executed with a delicate pencil. His father was very proud of them, and through him the Representative Alquier paid the young man, many well deserved compliments 18upon his possessing this useful and agreeable talent. He was highly gratified with the praise, and it was a well earned reward.

Baron Schubart told me his courier to Hamburg would not go till Friday. I took the opportunity to mention to the Representative Alquier, my desire for an answer which he had promised me. He made all possible apologies for not having sent it before; and excused with all the disarming complaisance which is so much at their command, his want of punctuality, that I could not possibly think of it with any dissatisfaction; it was all repaired, and I was promised that my answer should infallibly be sent me by tomorrow 2. o’clock, P.M. The only reason why I had not yet received it because the Secretaries had been so much engaged, that they had not yet made out the copies in all the Registers.

In my turn I apologized to him for repeating so frequently my solicitations, and withdrew. Employed the Evening in writing to Messrs: Willink, van Staphorst and Hubbard.