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an endP^' One evening at whist, whilst he was in
London, a lady of sixty was mentioned as just having
married a footman. Several expressed their surprise
at such a choice. " When you are nine," said the
bishop of Autun, "you do not count honours !" This
kind of wit belonged exclusively to him. He imbibed
it from the writings of Fontenelle, of whom he was
always a great admirer. He once related to me an



300 RECOLLECTIONS

abominable act of his colleague^ C . . at which i in-
dignantly exclaimed, " The man who would do that,
is capable of assassination ! " '^ No," said M. de
Talleyrand, ^' not of assassination, but of poisoning 1"
His manner of story-telling is peculiarly graceful ;
and he is a model of good taste in conversation. In-
dolent, voluptuous, born to wealth and grandeur, he
had yet, during his exile, accustomed himself to a life
of privation ; and he liberally shared with his friends
the only resources he had left, arising from the sale
of the wreck of his superb library, which fetched a
very low price, because, even in London, party-
spirit prevented a competition of purchasers.

Talleyrand did not come to London for nothing.
He had a long conference with Lord Grenville, of
which I have read his written account. Its object
was to point out the advantages which England might
derive from France having a constitutional king, and
to form a close connexion betv/een the two courts.
For, although the British cabinet appeared deter-
mined, in the event of war, to preserve a strict neu-
trality, it was extremely reserved towards France,
because it neither sympathised with the French gov-
ernment, nor believed in the stability of the French
constitution. This coldness gave great disquietude
to the cabinet of the Tuileries, and it was Talley-
rand's object to bring them closer together, even if
he could not unite them, and thus make sure that, at



OF MIRABEAU. 301

all events, France had nothing to fear from England.
Lord Grenville was dry and laconic ; nor did he
lend himself, in any way, to the furtherance of Talley-
rand's views, notwithstanding the advantages they
held out to England. It is well known that Lord
Grenville afterwards represented the bishop of Autun
as a clever, but dangerous man. Mr Pitt, when very
young, visited France, and spent some time with the
archbishop of Rheims, Talleyrand's uncle. Here the
latter became acquainted with him, and these young
men passed several weeks together in friendly and
familiarly intercourse. But in the only interview
they had in England, Talleyrand thought it Pitt's
place to recall this circumstance, and therefore did
not mention it. Pitt, who was decidedly opposed to
the object of Talleyrand's mission, took good care
not to remember the uncle, lest he should be obliged
to show some civility to the nephew.

On Talleyrand's presentation at court, the king
took but little notice of him, and the queen turned
her back upon him with marked contempt, which
she subsequently imputed to his immoral character.
From that period he was excluded from the higher
circles of society, as a dangerous man, and the agent
of a faction, — who could not actually be turned out
of doors, but whom it was improper to receive well ;
and he could not hope for much success in a mission
which began under such unfavourable auspices.



302 RECOLLECTIONS

In the course of February 1792, Talleyrand was
informed by his correspondents at Paris, that impru-
dent changes were about to take place in the ministry,
and that his friend, Louis de Narbonne, the minister
of war, was in danger of being dismissed. He im-
mediately applied for and obtained permission to
return to Paris, and determined to take with him
Duroverai, whom I had introduced to him, and whose
advice he had found very useful. Duroverai had
much at heart the maintenance of a good understand-
ing between the two countries, and flattered himself
that his connexion with Talleyrand might promote
that object which, he thought, could not but be
agreeable to the English government. He was very
intimate with Lord Sydney, and some other indivi-
duals connected with the British cabinet; and he had
taken advantage of this intimacy to dissipate the
prejudices formed against Talleyrand. His inter-
vention had therefore been useful to both parties, and
he fancied himself called upon to be the secret me-
diator between the two governments. Talleyrand
wanted him at Paris, to confirm all that he had to say
concerning the general feelings in England, to Cla-
viere, Brissot, and several others who had formed
very wrong notions on the subject, and who would
listen more readily to their old friend Duroverai
than to Talleyrand, who might be suspected of hav-
ing some personal interest at stake. Duroverai's



OF MIRABEAU. 303

opinion was a passport for his — a letter of credit to
the chiefs of the popular party. It was for these
same reasons that both Talleyrand and Duroverai
urged me to accompany them, and in truth, I requi-
red very little pressing. The idea of this visit to
Paris, which was to last only a fortnight, but ex-
ceeded six weeks, gave me much pleasure. I had
seen too much of the first assembly not to be desi-
rous of seeing the second. It was an interesting
episode in my monotonous existence. If I could join
my voice to theirs, and dissipate the prejudices
which we knew our friends to have formed against
England — if I could make them feel the necessity of
doing every thing for the preservation of peace, I
should serve the cause of freedom and humanity. —
Such an object of public interest gave fresh excite-
ment to a journey of pleasure, and connected me
with a great political project. I was also intimate
with Con dorcet, Claviere, Petion, and many others
whom it was necessary to bring to act in concert.



€ #



^04 RECOLLECTIONS



CHAPTER XIX.



Never did I perform a more agreeable journey.
Talleyrand was fond of having a small party in a car-
riage, because the conversation, of which, soit dit en
passant, he was the life and soul, was friendly and
uninterrupted. Hopes, projects and pleasing anti-
cipations kept our minds to the necessary degree of
tension, and we had not an instant of langour or in-
difference. Talleyrand, among many other singular
anecdotes, described the manner in which the new
clergy had been consecrated. Three bishops were
necessary for the ceremony, and his two coadju-
tors had hesitated till the last moment. Nothing
was less canonical than the means he employed to
secure the co-operation of one of them, w^ho wanted
to withdraw and thereby prevent the ceremony
from taking place.* One species of fear overcame

* Being told by the bishop of Lida, that the bishop of Ba-
bylon was wavering in his resolution, Talleyrand paid the latter



OF MIRABEAU. 305 \

\

another, and the breviary by which they were con-
vinced was a pistol and a menace of self-destruction.
That so sacred a ceremony should have been brought
about in such a manner, did not seem to me quite in
unison with the principles of religion ; but when the
critical situation of the bishop of Autun is consid-
ered, and the danger he would have incurred had
the weakness of his colleagues prevented the conse-
cration of the new clergy, some excuse may be made
for an act which tended to preserve the community
from revolt and bloodshed.

As we entered Paris, on the 19th of March, a
friend of M. de Talleyrand's stopped our carriage
to inform us that the court party had obtained the
dismissal of M. de Narbonne. His connexion with
the Girondists had led to the measure ; but people
were surprised that the king should still venture
upon inflicting this kind of disgrace. De Graves
had been appointed to succeed M. de Narbonne.

a visit, and with a most serious look, informed him that their
colleague, the bishop of Lida, was on the point of deserting
them ; that he well knew to what such conduct exposed them
from the people ; but his mind was made up never to suffer him-
self to be stoned by the mob, and he would certainly shoot
himself if either of them betrayed him. As he said this, he
produced a small pistol which he flourished with an air of de-
termination. This menace had its due effect. — Note by Du-
mont.

2o



306 RECOLLECTIONS

I soon made myself acquainted with what was
going on. There were three parties in the assem-
bly, each of whom swore by tlie constitution, though
all three were dissatisfied with it. The true consti-
tutional party, at whose head was Vaublanc, were
accused of secretly aiming at an extension of the
royal .luthority, and the formation of two legislative
chambers. This party, in their turn, imputed to
the Girondists a conspiracy against the constitution,
and the desire of establishing a republic. The Gi-
rondists cast upon the ultras of la Montague the
reproach of creating anarchy with a view to throw
odium upon the two other parties. The parti
de la Montague accused the constitutionalists of hav-
ing sold themselves to the king, and the Girondists
of a wish to govern in such a manner as to sacrifice
the country to the private interests of their own fac-
tion. — Hatred, mistrust and exaggeration were car-
ried to a lamentable excess, and it is difiicult to form
an idea of the passions which swayed this legislative
assembly. The moderates, as the first were called,
were the most sincere' and honest ; the Girondists
possessed all the talent, knowledge and eloquence \
and the parti de la Montague had, in addition to
their audacity and violence, the support of the
populace of the faubourgs.

There were two principal clubs : that of the Feu-
illans who supported the constitution, and that of the



OF MIR ABE AU. 307

jacobins whose principles tended to anarchy. The
Girondists fluctuated between both, and joined either
according to circumstances ; but they were hostile to
"the principles of the Feuillans, whilst they only
feared the excesses of the jacobins.

The king was governed by the Feuillans. The La-
meths and Barnave, who, with others of their friends,
were the leaders of this party, showed, then, as de-
termined a hostility to the majority in the legislative
assembly as they had formerly done to the court.
They thought of nothing but turning this majority
into ridicule, and bringing it into contempt. Such
a thing was certainly not difficult, but might lead to
dreadful acts of violence. They had obtained the
dismissal of M. de Narbonne as devoted to the Gi-
rondists, whilst his imputed attachment to themselves
had rendered him equally odious to the jacobins.

I will state my recollections of the Girondist party
with whom, at first, I found myself connected from
my intimacy with Condorcet, Brissot and Claviere.

They took me to breakfast-parties at the house of
a lady named, I think, d'Odun, who resided in the
Place- Vendome. These parties were usually attend-
ed by Brissot, Claviere, Roederer, Gensonne, Guadet,
Vergniaud, the Ducos, Condorcet, &c., w-ho met at
this house before they went to the assembly, and
here concerted their measures. But it may be readily
conceived that, at these meetings, there was more



308 RECOLLECTIONS

prating and party gossip than business done. Bris-
sot was the man of action ; he did every thing, and
\ his activity sufficed to meet every emergency.

\ Their principal object was to overthrow the courts"

by declaiming against the Austrian committee ; a sort
of invisible power against which they might bring
whatever charges they pleased. It was well known
that the king had secret counsels, and the queen se-
cret conferences ; that couriers were dispatched to
the princes of the blood at Vienna and Coblentz ; that
all the ambassadors to foreign potentates were attached
to the old regime, and had adhered to the constitu-
tion against their will ; that, in a word, the professed
opinion of the court was constitutional, but the real
opinion decidedly hostile to the constitution. — The
more the history of this period is studied, the stronger
becomes the certainty that the court wore a mask.
The king alone showed his face, but only in profile ;
and there is no doubt that he would have modified
the constitution, had he been able. This was, how-
ever, excusable, as it had already been admitted, by
every man of reflection, that this constitution could
never insure the primary object of a good govern-
ment ; I mean, public tranquillity.

The Girondists, persuaded that there was a conspi-
racy, among several foreign courts, against the French
people, attempted to get at the secret by the appoint-
ment of a ministry of their own choice, who could



OF MIRABEAU. 309

dive to the bottom of the intrigue and cause its
failure.

But the ambition of governing was the real object
of their manoeuvres ; and they felt the necessity of
power to enable them to encounter the jacobins of
Robespierre, who were becoming formidable.*

M. de Lessart, the minister for foreign affairs,
was an honest man, tolerably constitutional, but more
attached to the old than the new regime. The Gi-
rondists wanted to get rid of him j and his corres-
pondence with M. de Noailles, ambassador at Vienna,
afforded them the opportunity. The diplomatic
committee, having called for and obtained copies of
this correspondence, were loud in their complaints.
They accused M. de Noailles of having debased the
dignity of France, by temporizing under the insulting
hauteur of the prince of Kaunitz ; and M. de Lessart,
of sanctioning further degradation, and seeming to
apologize for suffering the constitution to exist, in-
stead of assuming a proper tone of dignity, and ma-
king a strong declaration in its favour.

M. de Lessart had received instructions from the
diplomatic committee to demand a categorical expla-
nation of certain expressions used by the prince of

* This illustrates the dangerous consequences of political
excesses. A party which has made itself feared, must obtain
power for its own safety ; and is thus reduced to conquer or
perish. — Note by Dumont.



310 RECOLLECTIONS

Kaunitz. The explanation was given, but did not
prove satisfactory. It was a violent attack upon the
jacobins, whose excesses were represented as degra-
ding to the king's majesty, and setting a dangerous
example to the rest of Europe. This answer, sup-
posed to have been concerted between the king and
M. de Lessart, increased the enemies of the minis-
ters, and its ultimate effect was to raise the jacobin
faction into notice and power.

Alarmed at the complaints of the diplomatic com-
mittee, M. de Lessart thought to lull the storm by
resigning his office. . But Brissot prepared an act of
impeachment against him, upon which he was sent to
Orleans for trial by the high national court.

I heard this act, containing seventeen or eighteen
counts, read in the committee. When alone with
Brissot and Claviere, I made some observations on
the subject. I said the counts were many of them
one and the same thing ; others so vague that it was
impossible to answer them ; that they were generally
artful, and calculated to excite undue prejudice and
violent animosity against the accused ; that some of
them were contradictory ; and that personal invec-
tive ought to be carefully avoided in a criminal ac-
cusation, &c. I have forgotten what else I said; but
if, upon the whole, I was displeased with this docu-
ment^ I was indignant at Brissot's reply. Laughing
at niy simplicity, he said, in a tone of disgusting lev-



OF MIKABEAU. 311

ity, " It is a necessary party manoeuvre. De Lessart
must positively go to Orleans, otherwise the king,
who is attached to him, would replace him in the
administration. We must steal a march upon the ja-
cobins, and this act of impeachment gives us the
merit of having done that which they would them-
selves do. This is so much taken from them. I
know that the counts are multiplied without necessity,
but the object of this is to lengthen the proceedings.
Oarand de Coulon, who is at the head of the high
national court, is a nice observer of legal forms ; he
will proceed methodically in the examination of each
separate count, and six months will elapse before de
Lessart will be able to get rid of the affair. I know
that he will be acquitted, because there is no evidence
against him ; but we shall have gained our object by
preventing his return to office." ^^Good God!" L
exclaimed, confounded at such odious principles,
*^ are you so deep in party machiavelism ? Are you
the man whom I once knew so decided an enemy to
subterfuge? Is it Brissot who now persecutes an in-
nocent man?. . . ." " But," he replied, disconcerted,
'^ you are not aware of our situation. De Lessart's ad-
ministration would destroy us, and we must get rid of
him at any price. It is only a temporary measure.
I know Garand's integrity, and de Lessart will come
to no harm. But we must save the country, and we
cannot overcome the Austrian cabinet unless the min-



312 RECOLLECTIONS

ister of foreign affairs be a man on whom we can de-
pend. Nevertheless, I will attend to your observa-
tions, and strike out the terms of invective to which
you so properly object."

From that time, Brissot fell in my estimation. I
did not come to a rupture with him, but ray friend-
ship weakened with my esteem. I had formerly
known him candid and generous ; he was now insidu-
ous and persecuting. If he had any qualms of con-
science — for Brissot was both a moral and a religious
man — they were allayed by the pretended necessity
of saving the state. It is in times of political faction
that we see illustrations of the correctness of the ideas
of Helvetius upon what constitutes virtue : Brissot
was faithful to his party, but a traitor to integrity.
He was excited by a feeling of enthusiasm for which
he was ready to sacrifice his life ; and because he
felt neither avarice nor ambition of ofiice, he fancied
himself a pure and virtuous citizen. " Look at the
extreme simplicity of my dwelling, and my table,
worthy of a Spartan — inquire into my domestic life,
and see if you can justly reproach me with dissipation
or frivolity. For two years I have not been near a
theatre ! ! !'' Such was the ground of his confidence.
He perceived not t^at party zeal, love of power, ha-
tred, and self-love are quite as dangerous in corrupt-
ing the human heart, as the thirst of riches, the am-
bition of office or the love of pleasure.



OF MIRABRAU. 313

De Lessart's impeachment produced all the effect
which the Girondists desired. Their influence was
brought to light. They were considered all-power-
ful, and they really became so. The king, terror-
struck, threw himself into their arms. De Graves,
as the oldest member of the council, although he had
been a member of it but six days, was called upon to
furnish the king with a list of names to complete the
new council of administration ; but he feared to act
under any other influence than that of the party who
could impeach ministers and send them, for trial,
before the high national court. This party, there-
fore, had the nomination of the new councillors, and
the first they appointed were Duraouriez, Claviere,
Roland, Lacoste and Duranton.

I had become slightly acquainted with de Graves
in London, and I, therefore, paid him a simple visit
of politeness at the Hotel de la Guerre. He received
me in the most cordial manner. " When we used
to walk together in Kensington Gardens," said he,
*^ neither you nor I ever supposed that I should, one
day, be a minister. I consented to take office for
the sole purpose of acquiring greater experience of
public aifairs and of men. I have no ambition, nei-
ther have I a thirst for power or riches ; but I am
determined to try what a modest and disinterested
man can do, who has no other object in view than
the public good ." I found that, all things considered ,
2p



314 RECOLLECTIONS

he dwelt at too great length, and with a little silli-
ness, upon his philosophy and moderation ; but he
was astonished at finding himself in such a sphere,
and tliey, who well knew him, were equally so. No
one was less qualified to take a part in a stormy ad-
ministration. He was an honest man, and his heart
w^as good ; he was a stranger to all party feeling, but
was weak both in body and mind ; he was not defi-
cient in acquirements and laboured hard ; but he
wanted energy of character and a firm will of his
own. Madame Roland, in her memoirs, treats him
with the most unjust contempt. She could see no-
thing in him but a bel- esprit of the drawing-room,
a fop in the shape of a minister ; his amenity, mild-
ness, and good breeding were so many blemishes, at
a period requiring a development of the greatest
energies. Certain it is that he was out of his sphere,
and his acceptance of office was a great error in
judgment. After two months of hard labour, he
became bewildered ; and that to such a degree, that
in his signatures he forgot his own name, and not
being aware of what he was doing, once signed him-
self Mayor of Pm^is. I had this fact from himself.

From my very first conversation with him, I re-
gretted not being sufficiently intimate to advise his
resignation . Accustomed to the manner of Mirabeau,
I now found myself at the Antipodes. De Graves,
having been brought into office by the Lameths,



OF MIRABEAU. 315

knew not how to behave towards the Girondists. He
was friendly to the former and afraid of the latter ;
and in listening to both parties, he tried to draw a
diagonal between them. He suifered himself to be
governed by Dumouriez, while the latter was in the
ministry ; and from Dumouriez's well known activity,
which absorbed every thing, the most fortunate cir-
cumstance which could occur to him was to be taken
in tow by that minister.

I must here mention one of those singular circum-
stances which often designate the secret causes of
events. I was seriously consulted upon the choice of
a war minister. Such a thing is ridiculous, but it is
nevertheless true. The Girondists, having filled up
the appointments in the council, looked upon de
Graves with displeasure, because he had been brought
into oflice by the Feuillans. Brissot and his friends,
aware of my intimacy with Duchatelet, asked me, in
sober earnest, w^hether I thought him capable of fill-
ing the office of minister of war j what opinion I had
formed of his talents and principles, and how far I
considered him trust-worthy. No confidence was
placed in Condorcet's opinion on these points, because
Duchatelet might be deemed almost a member of his
family. I got off by aifecting to treat the matter as
a joke. I found de Graves too weak, Duchatelet too
violent. And in truth, the confidence which the for-
mer had in me, and my friendship for the latter,
would have placed me in an awkward predicament,



316 RECOLLECTIONS

had I not averted it by the natural idea of laughing
at Claviere and Brissot for consulting me on such a
subject. 1 informed Duchatelet, however, that his
name had been mentioned; but he begged that I
would contrive to spare him the necessity of refusing
the office, because he anticipated war^ and was anx-
ious to go into active service . With superior know-
ledge and talents, he did not yet feel himself qualified
to be a minister, and he never would take an office
unsuited to his abilities. How the Girondists could
reconcile with delicacy the idea of placing, among
the king's responsible advisers, a man who had signed
the first proclamation in favour of a republic, is more
than I can pretend to explain. When I was sure of
Duchatelet's refusal, I ventured an observation upon
this inconsistency.

I had flattered myself a moment with the hope of
being able, through the Chevalier de Graves, to bring
about a treaty of peace between the Feuillans and the
Girondists. These parties mutually accused each
other of a desire to overthrow the constitution, the
former to establish tv/o legislative chambers and the
latter a republic. I became a species of mediator
who could create no distrust ; I carried messages from
one party to the other, and endeavoured to bring
about conferences between them ; but my plan did
not succeed, because the Girondists, fearful of the
hostility of the jacobins, would not unite themselves
with the opponents of the latter.



OF MIRABEAU. 317

The Girondists, then masters of the cabinet, were
pretty well disposed towards the king. I wrote a
speech for Gensonne, which was a profession of faith
on behalf of his party. This speech was much ap-
plauded in the committee. Its object was to profess


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