Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1 March 1789

To John Jay

Paris March 1. 1789.


My last letters have been of the 11th. 14th. and 21st. of January. The present conveyance being thro’ the post to Havre from whence a vessel is to sail for New York, I avail myself of it principally to send you the newspapers. That of Leyden of the 24th. contains a note of the Chargé des affaires of France at Warsaw which is interesting. It shews a concert between France and Russia; it is a prognostication that Russia will interfere in the affairs of Poland, and if she does it is most probable that the King of Prussia must be drawn into the war.—The revolution which has taken place in Geneva is a remarkeable and late event. With the loss of only two or three lives, and in the course of one week, riots, begun at first on account of a rise in the price of bread, were improved and pointed to a reformation of their constitution, and their antient constitution has been almost completely reestablished. Nor do I see any reason to doubt of the permanence of the reestablishment.—The king of England has shewn such marks of returning reason that the regency bill was postponed in the House of Lords on the 19th. inst. It seems now probable there may be no change of the ministry; perhaps no regent. We may be sure however that the present ministry make the most of those favourable symptoms.—There has been a riot in Brittany begun on account of the price of bread, but converted into a quarrel between the noblesse and tiers etat. Some few lives were lost in it. All is quieted for the present moment. In Burgundy and Franchecompté the opposition of the nobles to the views of government is very warm. Every where else however the revolution is going on quietly and steadily, and the public mind ripening so fast that there is great reason to hope a good result from the States general. Their numbers (about 1200) give room to fear indeed that they may be turbulent.—Having never heard of Admiral Paul Jones since the action, in which he took a part, before Oczakow, I began to be a little uneasy. But I have now received a letter from him dated at St. Petersburg the 31st. of January where he had just arrived at the desire of the empress. He has hitherto commanded on the Black sea. He does not know whether he shall be employed there, or where, the ensuing campaign. I have no other interesting intelligence which would not lead me into details improper for the present mode of conveyance. After observing therefore that the gazettes of France and Leyden to the present date accompany this, I shall only add asurances of the sincere esteem & respect with which I have the honour to be Dear Sir Your most obedient & most humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (DNA: PCC, No. 87, ii). PrC (DLC). The enclosed Gazette de Leide of 24 Feb. 1789, to which TJ specifically called Jay’s attention, is in DNA: PCC, No. 87, ii, accompanied by an English translation by John Pintard of the passage indicated. This included the message delivered by M. d’Aubery, French chargé d’affaires at Warsaw, to the Polish Diet, proclaiming that “the King expects from the wisdom of the Polish nation, that while they are engaged in restoring the different branches of its Government, they will avoid whatever may interfere with any other power whatsoever; that they will perceive that such things as centuries have altered or destroyed, cannot be reestablished in a few months; that finally they will deliberately weigh all the circumstances which they are under the necessity of proceeding with, in order not to expose themselves to the mortification of seeing even their hopes vanish, of never recovering that consistency and eclat which nature has assigned them among the powers of Europe”—a statement which excited the “most lively sensations” in the Diet and led Prince Sapiéha, one of “the warmest heads of the prevailing party,” to declare “that the counsel which the French Minister thought proper to give to Poland was diametrically opposed to what was passing at this time in the Kingdom, that he wished moreover that the Republic should regulate itself absolutely according to the inclination of a Court of which it conceived it had a right to complain; and to be distrustful of another court, with which Poland had every reason to be satisfied,” &c. The Gazette de Leide conjectured that the effect of the French note, which “manifests the connexion actually subsisting between the Courts of Versailles and Petersburgh,” would supercede the mission of Count Potocki, minister from Poland to France, and added: “By way of revenge the departure of Stolnick prince Czartoryski is hastened for Berlin, where his presence will be indispensably necessary, in case as it is apprehended, that Russia will not rest contented to suffer patiently the triumph of its public or private enemies.” The paper reported that the Russian ambassador at Warsaw had just presented another note “that speaks a great deal of this subject,” and that “through the preponderance of the prevailing party the dispositions for the formation of the Polish army are hastened. Yesterday the Diet approved by a Majority the project of a national Cavalry. There are to be raised by the month of May next 20 companies of 150 men each all Polish Gentlemen. The expences for the support of such considerable force far surpassing the ordinary means of the Republic, Lithuania has given an example of uncommon zeal” by not only complying with the subscription necessary but also offering to “double all the Imports that fell due in the month of March,” an offer which the Diet accepted with thanks.

In listing his last letters, TJ passed over the dispatch about Moustier on 4 Feb. 1789 which was intended only for Jay and Washington.

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