George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 30 August 1790

From Gouverneur Morris

London 30 August 1790

Dear Sir

In Reply to yours of the seventh of July I have the Pleasure to inform you that your plated Ware and Lamps are now on their Way to you.1 When I go to Paris (which will I think be shortly) I will get the additional Plateauxs which you want, and have them sent out by the first Conveyance. Should any Thing else occur in which I can be useful you have only to signify it, and you may rely on my best Endeavors.

It may perhaps be proper to mention one or two Things in Relation to the objects treated of in my Letters of last January.2 And first of a Commerce with the french Islands. Nothing has I beleive been done in France which may be favorable to our Views. But the Commotions in the Islands themselves will I presume operate like liberal Regulations of Police, and probably the Colonists will eventually demand as Right, what some Time since they would have accepted as Favor. I am led to beleive that we should not be over anxious on this Subject just now because Circumstances will perhaps serve us better than we can serve ourselves.

My Predictions respecting the Turk have been so far verified as that he has got Rid of one of his Enemies upon tolerable Terms for he looses no Dominion worth a Contest.3 How far the Intercessions now making to the Empress of Russia will produce the desired Effect seems not to be clearly ascertained. If a Squadron of Dutch or English Ships had arrived in the Baltic last May, it is more than probable that the Peace of the North would have been restored, but there are many Events which would enable the Empress of Russia to carry on successful operations against both the Turk and the Swede. The armies of the former, which opposed those of the Emperor cannot suddenly be transported to the Quarter where they are now wanted, neither will the Expence of them cease during this Campaign. It appears to me that the Season is too far advanced for any Thing which Prussia can do, let the Intention of the King be what it may; and Sweden, unprotected by naval Superiority is exposed to the Land Force of his Enemy without much Chance either of Aid or Diversion. Finland, which will probably be the Object of the Czarina, cannot maintain the Forces needful to defend it, if the Sea-Communications be cut off. Therefore the whole prussian Army (could it be transported thither) would be worse than useless. And thus the withdrawing of Austria from the War will have less Influence than might have been expected.

The People of Flanders seem to be given up, after having been used to distress the House of Austria. Heaven knows what Desperation may prompt them to; but it appears to me that wise Conduct on the Part of France would have acquired for her the Dominion of that Country. And if ever that should happen, France having at the same time a good Constitution, the Consequence of this Island is gone. Antwerp seems intended by Nature for the Emporium of european Commerce and the Navigation of the Scheld[t] would undoubtedly be opened, if it belonged to a great naval Power. That River and the Thames being nearly opposite to each other, mutual Visits might be expected, and in these the Superiority at Land must at length prove decisive.

The Situation of France however seems at first Sight to preclude all Effort. The national Bank which was in Contemplation is never taken Effect. after deliberating about it and about it, the Thing dropt, and they did expect to have made out with their new paper Currency (the Assignats) but my Predictions on that Subject seem to be verified. Still however the Situation of their Finances is not desperate. But their Assemblée is loosing Ground daily in the public opinion. The Army, long encouraged in licentious Conduct, is now in Revolt.4 All the Bands of Society are loosened, and Authority is gone. Unless they are soon involved in a foreign War it is impossible to conjecture what Events will take Place. For some Time past the Ministers have been threatned with the Lanterne, and they would gladly go out of Office. The great Difficulty is to find Successors, or rather Substitutes; Lafayette has been contriving an intermediate Ministry, to last for a few Months, till by the Dissolution of the Assembly (who have you know passed a Self denying Ordinance) a Set could be taken from among the present Members of that Body. But this will prove a bad Business for if the Intermediaries are not able Men they will make Things worse, and if they are they will not give up their Places.

We are in hourly Expectation of hearing the Decision of the Assemblee upon the Family Compact.5 The Spanish Embassador has required in pointed Terms a Compliance on the Part of France. This I have good Reason to beleive was in Concert with the french Administration. If it were possible to answer for such a Body as the Assemblée, and so placed as they are, I would pronounce in favor of their Adherence to the Terms of that Compact. If so, the Tone of the british Ministry may be a little lowered. In the mean Time both the Spanish and English Fleets are out, and were approaching towards each other. Probably each Side means only to terrify at present, but Spain will not recede any farther except in the last Necessity—In a Day or two I expect to learn Something of their Intentions here respecting us: and if I do not hear from them, shall make a final Address to his Grace of Leeds.6

It is very flattering to me, Sir, that you are so kind as to approve7 of my Communications with the Ministers of this Country so far as they had gone in the Begining of May. I earnestly hope that my subsequent Conduct may meet the same favorable Interpretation—This you may rely on, that if in any Case I go wrong it will be from an Error of Judgment. With sincere Esteem & Respect I am very truly yours

Gouvr Morris

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

1GW first asked Morris to procure some plated tableware for him in October 1789, and Morris received and began fulfilling that request in January 1790. After moving into the larger Macomb house, GW asked Morris to send him two more plateaux as well as fourteen patent lamps; but upon the arrival of the ornaments, GW again wrote to Morris, on 15 April 1790, countermanding his request for additional pieces. On 7 July, however, GW changed his mind again and asked to be furnished with two more plateaux (see GW to Morris, 13 Oct. 1789 [first letter] and note 1, 1 Mar., 15 April, 7 July 1790, and Morris to GW, 24 Jan. 1790 and notes 1 and 2).

3For the Ottoman Porte and the Convention of Reichenbach, see John Brown Cutting to GW, 1 May 1790, n.1, and Morris to GW, 16 Aug. 1790 (second letter) and note 4.

4For the mutinies at Metz and Nancy, see Lafayette to GW, 23 Aug. 1790 and note 4.

5Spain formally demanded assistance from France under the Family Compact on 16 June 1790. Ten days later the French minister for foreign affairs, the comte de Montmorin, informed the Spanish ambassador at Paris that he had presented the request to Louis XVI, but that the matter would also have to be laid before the French National Assembly. The king, however, hoping for an Anglo-Spanish settlement and fearing the volatility of the issue, waited until 2 Aug. 1790 to do so. On that day the assembly referred the Spanish demand and all relevant documents to Mirabeau’s diplomatic committee, which did not report until 25 Aug. 1790. The next day the assembly decided to honor the Family Compact in a limited way while increasing to forty-five ships of the line the defensive armament it had earlier authorized. Morris reported the news in his diary on 31 Aug. 1790 (Manning, “Nootka Sound Controversy,” description begins William Ray Manning. The Nootka Sound Controversy. Washington, D.C., 1905. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1904, pages 279–478. description ends 393, 424–28; Morris, Diary of the French Revolution, description begins Beatrix Cary Davenport, ed. A Diary of the French Revolution by Gouverneur Morris. 2 vols. Boston, 1939. description ends 1:581).

6Morris next addressed the British ministry on 10 Sept. 1790 (see Morris to GW, 18 Sept. 1790 and enclosures, and 21 Sept. 1790).

7For the president’s approval of Morris’s conduct towards the British ministry, see GW to Morris, 7 July 1790.

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