Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Short, 25 March 1792

From William Short

Paris March 25. 1792

Dear Sir

My last informed you of the breach which had been made in the ministry by the dismission of M. de Narbonne, the arrestation of M. de Lessart and resignation of M. de Bertrand. Since then the others have resigned and their successors have been appointed. The club des Jacobins have at length obtained the triumph they have been long aiming at by all sorts of means. They have forced the King to take the members of his council from their body, so that all the present ministers except that of the war department, are the most violent, popular and leading members of the club des Jacobins whose exagerated and dangerous principles have been long known wherever the French revolution has been heard of.

The King in his letter to the assembly announcing these appointments (which you will see in the gazettes sent) does not conceal his regret at losing his former ministers and the sacrifice which he has made in chusing the present.

They are, for the foreign department, M. Du Mourier, very famous under the late reign as being one of the four persons employed by the Count de Broglie for the secret correspondence kept up during many years and communicated directly to the King, without the knowledge of the minister of foreign affairs, being intended as a watch and often as a check on his operations. For the Marine, M. de la Coste formerly clerk in that department and lately one of the commissaries sent to the islands. For the interieur M. Roland de la Patière, brother in law of Brissot de Warville who is known to you. For the contributions publiques, M. de Clavière, the co-operator of Brissot de Warville in their work on the commerce of the United States with France and much known for his writings on finance. For the department of justice, it is supposed an Avocat of Bordeaux, but this is not yet declared.

This ministry has not yet had time to shew in what line they will march. It will certainly however be in a very popular one. But as it is impossible that it can be as popular as the club des Jacobins will desire, it is highly probable that there will soon be a scission between those who are in the ministry and those who are out. In that case they will be denounced and counteracted as much as their predecessors, unless indeed they have address enough to gain some of the most eloquent of their speakers. For a short time at least there may be expected union between the executive and legislative and nothing less can prolong the existence of the present government.

This prospect combined with some other causes, has occasioned within these five or six days a most unexpected rise in the value of the assignats. Specie was the day before yesterday at 25. p. cent, it had been as high as 60. Exchange with all countries rose in the same proportion and had every appearance of continuing. Yesterday there was a check and a small fall which will probably continue, until greater confidence shall be acquired by the present ministry, or until the prospects become brighter from abroad. Besides the political causes of this fluctuation in public credit, there are others also which have a considerable effect, arising from the excessive gambling in the funds and in bills of exchange which creates and destroys fortunes daily. Within these few days there have been several bankruptcies one of which is for ten or twelve millions.

As yet it appears probable that the King of Hungary will pursue the line marked out by his father. This will necessarily create delay. The present circumstances of the emigrants will not admit of their waiting for it. The assembly is now passing a decree for seizing their property and for appropriating it, at least of those who do not return within a term prescribed, to the expences occasioned by the preparations for war. This will bring back several of those who have large fortunes, but will probably have no effect on the others.

With respect to Spain there seems a probability of more moderation in the system adopted towards this country. Several inhabitants of the frontiers carried off prisoners to Spain have been returned since the change of the Ministry. I inclose you a copy of a letter from Mr. Carmichael the only one I have recd. from him for a long time, those he mentions having written, having never come to my hands. The memorial which he speaks of as having militated against his ideas is my letter of June 1. to M. de Montmorin and of which I inclosed you a copy in my No. 67. forwarded by M. de Ternant and received by you in due time as you informed me in yours of Nov. 24.

Not being acquainted with Mr. Carmichael’s ideas I cannot say in what manner this letter could have militated against them. You will perhaps be better able to judge as you will probably have been informed of them and as the copy of the letter is in your possession. Your letter to me on this subject certainly rendered it highly proper not to say indispensable that I should have proceeded in this manner with respect to M. de Montmorin. I am happy to find from Mr. Carmichael’s letter that he presumes favorably for the U.S. from Count Daranda’s being at the helm. I have thought it best to transcribe Mr. Carmichael’s letter that you might have his own expressions as well with respect to this circumstance as that of the memorial mentioned above.

In mentioning the change of the ministry I should not omit the circumstance of Messieurs Hennin and Rayneval being no longer employed. M. de Lessart judged it a necessary measure for diminishing the malevolence of the popular party towards his department, and gave them as successor the day before his arrestation M. Bonne Carrere appointed Minister to Liege, but not received there on account of his popular principles. It will no doubt strike you that the present moment exhibits a favorable prospect for changing the decrees of the former assembly relative to the articles of our commerce. Hitherto it was in vain that the ministry were well disposed. A proposition from them would have been a reason the more in favor of those who were for supporting decrees manifestly against the public weal but favorable to the private interests of several persons or parties. At present any proposition from the ministry will be well received and particularly those relative to the general interests of commerce from M. de Claviere, in whose talents all the popular party have much confidence, and above all in matters of this kind. With respect to the opinion of M. de Claviere on this subject as relative to the U.S. they have been long known to you. I have never had any communcation of any kind with him or Warville who is one of his co-operators, except in the publication of the pamphlet on tobacco more than twelve months ago and of which you were informed. Since then I have not seen either of them, but have no doubt their sentiments will be the same. In that case we may count on an alteration in the decrees relative to our commerce being proposed by that minister and supported in the assembly by Warville and the popular party who form a decided and large majority. I purpose speaking with Ministry on the subject and have full hopes of being able in a very short time to announce to you the change at least on the importation of salted provisions and tobacco from the U.S. The rest will certainly follow unless there should be some considerable deviation from present principles.

A decree concerning the colonies was at length adopted yesterday after the unexpected delays with which you have been made acquainted. It confirms fully the gens de couleur in the rights which have been alternately granted and refused by the former assembly according to the state of parties at the time of passing each decree. For the other dispositions of the present decree I refer you to the gazette universelle of this morning herein inclosed. The decree respecting the succours to be given to the colonies I am assured will be passed in a few days.

The Bishop of Autun has returned here from London. It is said and he says, to have more ample powers for prosecuting the business he was sent on. He has given assurances which have been mentioned from the diplomatic committee, of England’s observing the strictest neutrality with respect to the affairs of France, and adds also a probability of connexions being formed between the two countries. As yet however he has in all likelihood only conjectures to go on, and most people seem to think the conjectures against him. It is certain however that some expressions in the speeches of some of the ministerial members of Parliament, seem designed to sound the public opinion on this subject, which is the most favorable symptom, if not the only one, for him.

I am desired to ask your attention to the two inclosed letters. There is also a third one for yourself.—I have the honor to be with perfect respect, Dear Sir, your obedient & humble servant,

W: Short

PrC (DLC: Short Papers); at head of text; “No. 97.”; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Secretary of State Philadelphia.” Tr (DNA: RG 59, DD). Recorded in SJL as received 6 June 1792. Enclosure: Carmichael to Short, 1 Mch. 1792, in which he stated: “On the 24th of November I gave you the only important communication which I had then to send relative to our negotiation here. On the sixth of Augt. I addressed you on the same subject, having previously advised you that I had a Copy of your Memorial to the Ct. de Montmorin, the presentation of which here militated against my ideas at the time when the communication was made. I found by your last to me that my two former letters had not reached you and I do not know yet whether my last has not had the same fate. I could not write by the return of the courier, because the charge des affaires of France gave me your letter when a severe bilious cholic incapacitated from all business and he was obliged to dispatch his courier before I could follow him to the Escorial from whence he sent him. At present I advise you of a change in the Ministry here. Without entering into minute details, I can assure you that it has been long premeditated and that you may pay little attention to the various reasons which may be assigned for such an extraordinary event to all outward appearances. If the Ct. Daranda who succeeds the C. de Florida Blanca preserves as Minister the same sentiments that he held forth to me as a particular we shall gain by the exchange. This morning he announced to the Corps diplomatic that his majesty had entrusted him in the interim with the department of Ct. de Florida Blanca and with his official note to me on this occasion he included two answers to notes that I had addressed to the Ct. de F. B. entirely satisfactory the only instance of attention received by any of our Corps. I am pressed for time, Bourgoins courier waits for this letter. If the people with you are wise and moderate that Gentleman may succeed here. He has every talent necessary for this purpose” (Tr in DNA: RG 59, DD; RC in DLC: Short Papers, includes paragraph about James Swan and Gouverneur Morris omitted in Tr).

The work in question by Étienne Clavière and Jean Pierre Brissot de Warville was De la France et des États-Unis, ou de l’Importance de la Révolution de l’Amérique pour le bonheur de la France (London, 1787). See Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952-1959, 5 vols. description ends No. 3609. TJ instructed the American minister in Paris to work for the elimination of the decrees … relative to … our commerce well before Short’s letter arrived in Philadelphia (TJ to Gouverneur Morris, 10 Mch., 28 Apr. 1792). The Legislative Assembly’s 24 Mch. 1792 decree granted full political rights to all “hommes de couleur et nègres libres” in the French colonies (Archives Parlementaires, xl, 451).

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