Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Short, 8 October 1789

From William Short

Paris Oct. 8. 1789

Dear Sir

I have this moment received a letter from Mr. Nat. Cutting of the 6th. To my very great surprize he informed me that you were still at Havre. Petit’s not returning would have made me suppose you were detained, if on the contrary I had not been sure that you would not have remained so long there without writing to me.—I fear now that the beginning of your journey to America has an influence which we had attributed to American air only. I am every day questioned by your friends here about you. When I tell them that you have not written to me and that I do not know whether you have embarked or not, ils en sont on ne peut plus etonnés. I hope still you will write to me before your embarkation, and that when in America you will find leisure to write me often if it is only two lines.—I began this letter with an intention of giving you a full detail of what has passed here since your departure, but finding that I cannot do it in time for the post, I will barely tell you, that the scarcity of bread continuing, on sunday evening the 4th. inst. crowds assembled as on former occasions in the Palais Royal. Many motions were made on the subject, to which little attention was paid in general. At ten o’clock I went there, the crowd was small, the guards went the rounds in peace and I left it with all the appearance of returning tranquillity. On monday morning a number of women assembled at the place de Greve, and took possession by surprize of the hotel de ville. There they found some old arms &c. The Marquis de la fayette informed of this circumstance went to the hotel de ville, recovered possession of it, and endeavoured, though in vain to recover also the place de Greve. The women to the number of 5 or 6 thousand marched off to Versailles, this was about 11. oclock. The tumult increased at the place de Greve. The people and soldiery joined in insisting that the Mis. de la fayette should march with them to Versailles. He resisted as long as possible, but was forced to yield, and about half after five set off at the head of his troops. The women had arrived at Versailles crying out du pain, du pain. A deputation to the number of 19. went to the national assembly. Others approached the troops drawn up before the chateau de Versailles—the troops had orders not to fire—yet in the confusion of the night, some discharges took place. At 9. the troops were ordered to retire to their quarters. The Mis de la f. arrived about 11. He halted his troops and made them renew their oath to the Nation and the King. The night was employed in preventing disorder which he effected. The next morning began by the Gards du corps being pursued and fired at every where by the people. Seven were killed. The rest were saved from the fury of the people by the Marquis and the french guards. The large court under the King’s appartments before 9. became full of people. The King shewed himself to them. They insisted on his coming to remain at Paris. He assented and added he would bring the Queen and his children. They accepted, and between 12. and 1. the march begun. The national assembly declared themselves inseparable from the King. The royal family preceded and followed by women, children, men of all sorts, in the condition you may suppose, arrived at half after eight, and went to the hotel de Ville, on tuesday evening. They were received by the Commons of Paris in great order, and went from thence to sleep at the Chateau des Thuilleries where they remain.—The assembly is still at Versailles. The manege it is said is preparing for their reception.—On Wednesday morning to the astonishment of everybody, bread became as abundant as ever, and still remains so. This is the most inexplicable of the whole. Nobody can divine the cause of this rapid change from scarcity to plenty. Paris has been for these two days quiet. It is impossible to say what produced the disorder, what the calm, and consequently, how long it will last.

Two days after you left this place I received a letter from Mr. Donald. I find he has my certificates in his hands. I answered his letter and inclosed it to Mr. Jay, not imagining that it would be possible to send it by you. I inclose you one for him at present, as it is possible this may overtake you at Havre. It is sent to Mr. Le Mesurier agreeable to Mr. Cutting’s request. If you are gone it will be sent to Mr. Jay. As you will see Mr. Donald I will thank you to recommend to him my business. I explain to him that I wish whatever cash he can command for me to be converted into certificates of the State, or if he thinks better into continental securities. What I trust to you to press on him is the necessity of losing no time.—Adieu my dear Sir. Accept my most sincere wishes for a prosperous voyage, health and happiness. I beg you not to omit to present my compliments to the young ladies. I send Miss Jefferson a letter which Ld. R. Fitzgerald gave me for her a few days after your departure. I have never heard any thing from Mr. Necker on the subject of your letter. Believe me for ever your friend & servant,

W. Short

RC (DLC); endorsed and recorded in SJL as received 21 Feb. 1790. PrC (PHi). Enclosures: (1) Short to Alexander Donald, 8 Oct. 1789, written on learning that TJ was still at Le Havre, and repeating the substance of a letter of a week earlier that he had enclosed in one to Jay (PrC in DLC: Short Papers). (2) The letter from Lord Robert Fitz-Gerald to Martha Jefferson has not been found.

The letter from Mr. Nat. Cutting, 6 Oct. 1789, reads in part: “Mr. Jefferson remains at this Port wind-bound. The weather and winds have been so very unfavorable since his arrival, that only one passage boat has past from hence for England during that space of time. That Boat took her departure on the 29th. ulto., which was the day after Mr. Jefferson’s arrival here; and as part of his Baggage, from which he did not chuse to be seperated, was detain’d on the Road by some delay of the Diligence, he was obliged to forego that opportunity of passing to Cowes. The heavy Baggage and Carriages were embarked on sunday and yesterday every preparation was compleated for his embarkation; but the wind proved so violent that it was found impossible for the Passage Boat to get out of the Port. Mr. Jefferson bears this disappointment like a Philosopher; but I believe his amiable Daughters find it difficult to reconcile themselves to it. One Consolation is that the winds have undoubtedly prevented the Ship they expect to meet at Cowes, from coming down Channel and I think they will be at the place of assignation before her. I expect to have the pleasure of crossing the Channel with Mr. Jefferson, and shall visit London before my return” (DLC: Short Papers; endorsed by Short as received 8 Oct. 1789 at 10:00 a.m.).—As advised by Cutting, Short enclosed the present letter in one of the same date to Le Mesurier & Cie. directing them, in case TJ had left Le Havre, to retain it until they received one from Short to Jay to which it could be joined (DLC: Short Papers).

The letter to Mr. Jay was one of 30 Sep. 1789 that Short sent by post. It announced TJ’s departure and reads in part: “Before his departure he communicated your letter [of 19 June 1789] to Mr. Montmorin, who considered it as sufficient evidence of my being nominated Chargé des affaires of the United States and consequently received me in that character. I have told him that I should present him the necessary papers which you mention as soon as they should arrive.—I beg you to be assured Sir that I am impressed with a due sense of the honor conferred on me by this trust and that I shall use every effort to give proofs of it. I shall endeavour particularly to continue the line of information which has been hitherto observed by Mr. Jefferson.—This letter will be sent to Havre where I have this moment learned there is a vessel about to sail for New-York. As it will go by post I can only give you such intelligence as is public here. I inclose you sir the speech of Mr. Necker to the National Assembly delivered the 23rd of this month, not knowing if that which was sent after Mr. Jefferson will have overtaken him so that he might forward it to you. The assembly adopted without contention the propositions of the Minister, and he is now taking Measures accordingly. Many people are following the example given by the King of sending his plate to the mint to be converted into coin. No body can estimate with precision the sum which will be thrown into circulation by this measure, but it is hoped that it will be sufficient to give a momentary relief to the treasury.—The scarcity of bread continues here to an alarming degree. It is probably owing to the farmers having not had time to beat out their grain, but the people, who suffer by it, attribute it to other causes, and it is apprehended they will, if it should continue, use violent measures. The premium which had been granted on the importation of wheat and flour has expired and the ministry have not thought proper as yet to renew it. They think that these articles will command a price sufficient to induce foreigners to bring them.—An engagement took place on the 24th of the last month between the fleets of Russia and Swedish gallies on the Baltic… . I do not send you by this conveyance the gazettes you were accustomed to receive from Mr. Jefferson… .” (PrC in DLC: Short Papers).

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