George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 18 April 1794

From Gouverneur Morris

Sainport [France] 18 April 1794.

My dear Sir

In a Letter which I had the Honor of writing to you on the 10th of January 1793, I gave you some Traits respecting Mr Westerman, and as my public Dispatches had already communicated the Plans of Mr Danton, you will not have been surpriz’d at what has lately happened to them.1 I wrote to you on the 25th of June that those who rul’d the Roast had just Ideas of the Value of popular Opinion. Also that should they reach a Harbor it would be as much by good Luck as by good Management, and that at any Rate Part of the Crew would be thrown overboard. Those I had then particularly in View were Chabot & Company of which Company a Part still exists.2 On the Eighteenth of October I gave you a short View of the nature of the then Government, and added what seem’d to be the probable Termination. I therein observd that whether France would pass to that Point thro the Medium of a Triumvirate, or other small Body of Men seem’d as yet undetermin’d but that I thought it most probable she would. At that Period Things were wound up very high, and ever since the utmost Uncertainty has prevaild as to the Stroke which would be given. I enclose herein a Copy of what I wrote on the twelfth of last Month⟨,⟩ since which both the Dantonists and Hebertists are crush’d.3 The fall of Danton seems to terminate the Idea of a Triumvirate⟨.⟩ The Chief who would in such Case have been one of his Colleagues has wisely put out of the Way a dangerous Competitor. Hence it would seem that the High road must be laid thro the Comité de Salut public4: Unless indeed the Army should meddle. But as to the Army no Character seems as yet to have appeard with any prominent Feature; neither is there so much Discipline as would give an aspiring Character just Ground of Hope. It is a wonderful Thing Sir that four years of Convulsion among four and twenty Millions of People has brought forth no one either in civil or military Life whose Head could fit the Cap which fortune has woven. Roberspierre has been the most consistent, if not the only consistent. He is one of those of whom Shakespeare’s Cæsar speaks to his frolicksome Companion. “He loves no Sports as thou dost Anthony.” 5 There is no Imputation against him for Corruption. He is far from rich, and still farther from appearing so. It is said that his Idol is Ambition; but I think that the Establishment of the Republic would (all Things considered) be most suitable to him. Whether he thinks so is another Question which I will not pretend to answer, nor how far such Establishmt may appear to him practicable. If it be supposed that a Man in his situation should absolutely despair of the Republic, and have so much Diffidence either in his Abilities, or his Influence, as to despair also of obtaining, much less of preserving the supreme Power, then it might be supposd that Danton’s Plan would be by such Person carried into Execution. Yet all this Supposition is but conjectural Foundation of new Conjecture. And what are the Allies about? Forming Schemes to be executed if they should continue to be Allies.6 I am dear Sir very truly yours.

Gouv. Morris

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

1François-Joseph Westermann and Georges-Jacques Danton were guillotined on 5 April.

2François Chabot (1756–1794), who was a member of the Comité de sûreté générale (Committee of General Security) from 21 Jan. 1793 until its reorganization in September of that year, was executed on 5 April.

3On the fall of Jacques-René Hébert and his followers, see William Jackson to GW, 4 April, and n.9.

4For members of the Comité de Salut Public (Committee of Public Safety), see n.8 of Jackson to GW, 4 April.

5Robespierre, another member of the Comité de Salut Public, was guillotined on 28 July. “He loves no plays, As thou dost, Anthony” appears in Act 1, scene 2, of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

6Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Portugal, Russia, and Spain were members of the First Coalition, a military alliance formed in opposition to the Republic of France.

Index Entries