George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 10 January 1793

From Gouverneur Morris


My dear SirParis 10 January 1793

As I have good Reason to beleive that this Letter will go safely, I shall mention some Things which may serve as a Clue to lead thro Misteries—Those who plannd the Revolution which took Place on the tenth of August sought a Person to head the Attack, and they found a Mr Westermann whose Morals were far from Exemplary. He has no Pretensions to Science or to Depth of Thought, but he is fertile in Ressources and endued with the most daring Intrepidity. Like Cæsar he beleives in his Fortune—When the Business drew towards a Point, the Conspirators trembled; but Westermann declard they should go on. They obey’d because they had trusted him too far. On that important Day his personal Conduct decided (in a great Measure) the Success. Rewards were due, and military Rank with Opportunities to enrich himself were granted.

You know Something of Dumouriez. The Council distrusted him. Westermann was commission’d to destroy him, should he falter. This Commission was shew’d to the General. It became the Band of Union between him and Westermann—Dumouriez open’d Treaty with the King of Prussia.1 The principal Emigrants, confident of Force and breathing Vengeance shut the royal Ear. Thionville was defended because a Member of the constituent Assembly saw in Lafayette’s Fate his own.2 Metz was not deliver’d up because Nobody ask’d for the Keys, and because the same Apprehensions were felt which influenced in Thionville. The King of Prussia waited for these Evidences of Loyalty untill his Provisions were consum’d. He then found it necessary to bargain for a Retreat. It was worth to Westermann about ten thousand Pounds. The Council, being convinc’d that he had betray’d their bloody Secret, have excited a Prosecution against him for old Affairs of no higher Rank than petit Larceny—He has desir’d a Trial by Court Martial.

You will judge whether cordial Union can subsist between the Council3 and their Generals—Verniaux[,] Guadet &ca are now I am told the Intimates of Dumouriez, & that the present Administration is to be overturn’d, begining with Pache the Minister of War—You will have seen a Denunciation against these Members of Assembly for a Letter they wrote to Thierry the King’s Valet de Chambre. This Affair needs Explanation, but it can be of no present Use.4

The King’s Fate is to be decided next Monday the fourteenth. That unhappy Man conversing with one of his Counsel on his own Fate, calmly summed up the Motives of every Kind and concluded that a Majority of the Convention would vote for referring his Case to the People and that in Consequence he should be massacred—I think he must die or reign.5 yours always and truly

Gouvr Morris

ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC: Gouverneur Morris Papers.

1For background on revolutionary events in France, including the storming on 10 Aug. 1792 of the Tuileries, where Louis XVI and his family were living, the arrest of the king, the establishment of a republican government, and France’s war with Austria and Prussia, see Gouverneur Morris to GW, 23 Oct. 1792, and source note. François-Joseph Westermann (1751–1794), a native of Alsace, served several years in the French army before receiving an appointment to a magisterial position in Strasbourg in 1788. His radical revolutionary inclinations eventually led him to Paris, where he played a leading role in the storming of the Tuileries. As a member of General Dumouriez’s staff, he assisted in the negotiations that led to the withdrawal from France of the Prussian army following its defeat at Valmy on 20 Sept. 1792 by the French forces under Dumouriez’s command. Westermann participated in Dumouriez’s conquest of Belgium in the fall of 1792 and invasion of the Netherlands in February 1793. Following General Dumouriez’s defection to the Austrians in the spring of 1793, Westermann was investigated by a commission of the National Convention, and although he admitted an Austrian attempt to bribe him, he was found innocent of any impropriety and returned to active military service. Early in 1794 previous charges of treason were revived by the French government, and Westermann was guillotined on 5 April 1794.

2After the king’s arrest in August 1792 and the suspension of the monarchy, Lafayette’s opposition to the creation of a new government led to his removal from military command and his indictment by the government. On 19 Aug. he fled France, but he was arrested by Prussian forces while crossing France’s border. Transferred to Austrian custody in May 1793, Lafayette was imprisoned at Olmütz until his release in September 1797. Thionville, a port on the Moselle River, is in northeast France, near the Luxembourg border and seventeen miles north of Metz. It was under siege from 24 Aug. to 14 Sept. 1792, when the arrival of additional French troops forced the Prussians to abandon the siege.

3For a list of members of the French Provisional Executive Council as of 30 Dec. 1792, see the French Provisional Executive Council to GW, 30 Dec. 1792, n.3.

4Royal valet Marc-Antonine Thierry de Ville-d’Avray (1732–1792) had been a vehicle for clandestine correspondence between Louis XVI and Girondin leaders Pierre-Victurnien Vergniaud (1753–1793) and Guadet before the storming of the Tuileries. Vergniaud, a member of the former Legislative Assembly, now served in the newly elected National Convention. He presided over the king’s trial by that body and voted for the king’s execution. Vergniaud himself was guillotined on 31 Oct. 1793.

5After a trial before the National Convention, Louis XVI was found guilty of conspiracy and criminal activities against the general security of the state. Contrary to the king’s expectation, the National Convention voted against allowing the people to decide his fate, and the king was executed on 21 Jan. 1793.

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