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attachment to the constitution, and point out the fac-
tions by which it was endangered. It was composed
with sufficient art to prevent strong declarations in
favour of royalty, and a vigorous denunication of
anarchy, from giving offence. Though Gensonne's
cold and feeble manner was very different from that
of Mirabeau, still he was listened to and applauded.
The king was much pleased ; and indeed, this was
the last monarchical speech made in the assembly. I
was well satisfied at having got this public step
taken by a party always suspected of republicanism.
But it was like a drop of oil upon the tempestuous

This speech was strangely mutilated in the Moni-
teur. The conclusion of it had not been well receiv-
ed by the parti de la Montague, and the assembly
had not, therefore, decreed that it should be printed.
The Girondists already began to fear that they had
gone too far, and to repent of having made concess-
ions to the cause of royalty. I used to attend Pe-
tion's public dinners, at the Mairie, at which the
Girondists were always in strong force. At these
parties, the conversation was always pointed, like a


battery, against the court. The Coblentz conspi-
racy, that of the Austrian cabinet, and the treachery
of the court were animadverted upon; and the
moderantism of the Feuillans was considered much
more heinous than the anarchial fury of the jacobins.
Chabot, of whom Madame Roland relates a trait of
fanaticism which she was credulous enough to be-
lieve sincere, used to put on his bonnet-rouge, and
amuse the company by low buffoonery, in ridicule of
the king. Many of the guests, whose names I for-
get, were disgustingly coarse and vulgar ; and I was
surprised at seeing Condorcet derive pleasure from
a society so much beneath him. I know nothing, in
a popular party, more annoying to a well-bred man,
than being obliged to associate with low and ill-
mannered persons. Such, however, was the com-
mencement of those disgusting manners and that
sans-culotism, by which France was so degraded.
Politeness and decorum of behaviour were aristo-
cratical distinctions, necessary to be trodden under
foot, in order to attain to equality with the rabble.*

* Four journals appeared, at that period, against the court,
and their success was precisely in an inverse ratio to their me-
rit. The Chronique de Paris, by Condorcet, written with
much art, with traits of covered malice and veiled satire, was
scarcely known except at Paris and in foreign countries'.
Brissot's Patriote, open and violent, but pure in style, cir-
culated more in the Cafes and in the provinces. Les An-

OF MlRABEAtr. 319

The leaders of the Girondists were persons of a
difTerent description. Vergniaud was an indolent
man, who spoke little, and required to be stimu-
lated ; but when excited, his eloquence was true,
forcible, penetrating, and sincere. Guadet, who
had more vivacity, wit, and smoothness, was eloquent
and ingenious; always ready to appear in the tri-
bune and face his opponents. Brissot was always
writing, running about, getting up meetings, and
putting his machinery in motion ; but he had not
the gift of oratory. He was deficient in dignity,
ease, expression and presence of mind. Gensonne
was of a mild and easy temper. The eloquence of
Buzot was penetrating and persuasive. De Sers,
who was unknown to the public, but had great influ-
ence in their committees, was sensible, moderate,
and of amiable temper. He often made them revoke
precipitate resolutions, and was the only one who
could keep Brissot in order. Roederer was a man

nales Patriotiques, by Mercier and Cara, obtained great vogue,
from its meanly vulgar style, and was read aloud for the edification
of all the affiliated clubs. But the Pere Duchesne, who dishon-
oured literature by the most obscene and infamous style, was the
delight of the multitude. Such was the auction of popularity. It
is right to show those who embrace this career, that the prize
is always won by the most impudent. Condorcet, from his supe-
riority of talent, was a mere subaltern of the Pere Duchesne. —
Note by Dumont.


of intellect, but extremely ignorant. He was so
inconsiderate and thoughtless, that he could never
raise himself above a subordinate part, although, in
capacity, he was superior to the whole of his party.
Condorcet never spoke in the tribune, and very
little in conversation. He was nick-named the mad
ram. He was not a party leader; for although his
name gave great weight to the party, he appeared
to me nothing more than a simple approver or de-
fender of their measures. His Chronique de PajHs
was a well written paper. The court had no greater
enemy than he ; and his attacks were the more dan-
gerous, because they were carried on in a tone of
refinement, decorum, and calmness, which made a
much stronger impression than the violent insults of
Brissot and the jacobins. Champfort was brilliant
and sarcastic, and his caustic bon-mots were in gene-
ral circulation. His dread of the conspirators at the
Tuileries, prevented him from sleeping. He always
fancied himself upon a mine of gunpowder about to
explode. Sieyes had generally the same fears ; and
during his dreams, saw his head rolling upon the

All, from a sentiment of fear, were working in
conjunction, at the overthrow of the monarchy ; they
wanted to get rid of a phantom, which kept them in
a constant agony of alarm. However we may ridi-
cule these imaginary terrors, they certainly brought


about the second revolution; The minds of men
were not in their right tone; and if jealousy imparts
an air of reality, to the most imperfect appearances,
and finds evidence in mere suspicion, — party spirit
has a similiar action upon the mind, and, like a fever
which inflames the brain, and presents livid spectres
and deformed monsters to the imagination, it creates
sinister and appalling visions.

2 Q



I WAS taken to Roland's. This personage was sim-
ple in his manners, grave in his conversation, and
somewhat pedantic about virtue. But such kind of
moral ostentation, so strongly ridiculed in Necker,
does not displease me in a public man. Not that I
admire an individual who seems amazed at his own
probity, and, like the Doge of Genoa, is in astonish-
ment at finding himself existing in an age of corrup-
tion, but a minister who lays a degree of stress upon
morality, seems to me calculated to brace up the re-
laxed morals of society. Such affectation does not
indeed sit well iipon every one, but many who ap-
pear to turn it into ridicule hold it secretly in dread.
To a very beautiful person, Madame Roland uni-
ted great powers of intellect , her reputation stood
very high, and her friends never spoke of her but
with the most profound respect. In character she
was a Cornelia, and had she been blessed with sons,
would have educated them like the Gracchi. At


lier house I saw several committees composed of
ministers, and of the leading Girondists. A female
appeared rather out of place at such meetings ; but
she took no part in the discussions. She was gene-
rally at her desk writing letters, and seemed not to
notice what was going on, — of which, however, she
did not lose a word. The simplicity of her dress
did not detract from her natural grace and elegance,
and though her pursuits were more adapted to the
other sex, she adorned them with all the charms
of her own. I reproach myself with not having
personally known all her good qualities ; but I had
imbibed a prejudice against female politicians; and I
found in her, besides, too much of that tendency to
mistrust resulting from ignorance of the world.

Claviere and Roland, after seeing the king at the
council, had abandoned their prejudices, and gave
him credit for sincerity ; but Madame Roland did
not cease warning them against the illusions of the
court ; because she could not believe in the good
faith of a prince educated with an opinion that he
was superior to other men. She maintained that
both were dupes, and the most satisfactory assu-
rances were, in her judgment, only snares. Servan,
who had a sombre temper, and the most splenetic
pride, appeared to her energetic and incorruptible ;
she mistook his passions for elevation of mind, and his
hatred of the court for republican virtue. Lou vet,


who had the same prejudices, became her hero. He
possessed, it is true, wit, courage, and vivacity ; but
I am at a loss to conceive how a virtuous woman could
ever mistake the libertine author of Faublas for a
severe republican. Madame Roland overlooked
every fault in those who declaimed against courtiers,
and believed that virtue was confined to hovels.
She exalted very mediocre personages, such as Lan-
thenas and Pache, merely because they professed the
same opinion. I confess that, in my estimation, all
this was any thing but attractive ; and it prevented
me from cultivating an intimacy which I should have
sought with eagerness, had I then known her as well
as I did after her death. Her personal memoirs are
admirable. They are an imitation of Rousseau's
Confessions, and often not unworthy of the original.
She exposes her innermost thoughts, and describes
herself with a power and truth not to be found in
any other work of the same description. A more
extensive knowledge of the world was wanting to her
intellectual development, and, perhaps, a more inti-
mate acquaintance with men of sounder judgment
than her own. None of those who visited her were
raised above vulgar prejudices ; and this encouraged
her in a disbelief of the possibility of an alliance
between monarchy and freedom. She looked upon
a king with the same horror as Mrs Macauley, whom
she considered as a being superior to her sex. Had


Madame Roland heen able to communicate to her
party her own intrepidity and energy of mind, roy-
alty would have been overthrown, but the jacobins
would not have triumphed.

Madame Roland's style was forcible and flowing,
but she was too fond of writing, and was constantly
urging her husband to do the same. Roland was the
minister of writers. I have often fancied that fac-
tions who pamphletize much, generally weaken them-
selves in public estimation. Among such a multitude
of writers, many are found who harass and irritate
their opponents without serving their own cause ;
and in such paper warfare, the party leaders acquire
a habit of talking instead of acting, of discussing
measures when they ought to be carrying them into
execution, and of sacrificing at the altar of vulgar
error, when they ought to soar above prejudice.
Besides, they who write to cultivate the opinion of
the moment, give themselves a very capricious mas-
ter. One good journal would have done more real
service to the Girondists, than the host of scribblers
paid by the minister of the interior to enlighten, as
he said, the nation and fix public opinion.

The greatest reproach that can with justice be
attached to Madame Roland, is, that she induced her
husband to publish his confidential letter to the king,
beginning thus: ^^ Sir, the contents of this letter
shall never be known but to you and me.'" — On his


dismissal from the ministry^ he could not resist the
pleasure of a disguised revenge^ and he published his
letter? containing prophetic menaces, without reflect-
ing, perhaps, that these very menaces were likely to
bring about a realization of his predictions, and that
by pointing out publicly to the king all he had to
fear from the people, he was suggesting to the latter
what they ought to do against the king.

Claviere was appointed minister of public contri-
butions,* and I had the pleasure of seeing him at
length attain to that point of elevation he had so
long coveted, and for which he had struggled with
such stubborn ambition. He was now at the sum-
mit of his wishes. During ten long years he had
toiled to force his way into the government of
France; for he had all his life felt an instinctive
anticipation of one day becoming a minister of state.
When M. Necker was called to the ministry, Cla-
viere, then a merchant at Geneva, could not help
betraying the secret ambition of his heart to some
of his intimate friends. In 1780, he went with
Duroverai to Paris, about the affairs of the represen-
tatives. Passing, one day, the hotel of the minister
of finance, *^My heart tells me," said he, "that I
shall inhabit that hotel some day or other. ^^ He
laughed himself at a prophecy so unlikely ever to

* The same as minister of finance.

OF MIllAlJEAU. 327

be realized, and Duroverai thought him a little de-
ranged in intellect. Exiled by the king of France
from the republic of Geneva, he went to Ireland
with a view of establishing a Genevese colony there ;
but having failed, he settled at Paris. Now, there
was very little probability that an individual, driven
from his native country by the French ministry,
should ever become a member of that ministry ; —
but men of ardent minds perceive means of success
in those things which, to others, would seem imposs-
ibilities. Claviere could write upon all financial
questions, and was the author of almost all Mira-
beau's works on finance. The confusion and disor-
der in this branch of the administration showed him,
in the distant horizon, an obscure perspective of
calamity, which might, at no very distant period,
render his services acceptable. His active imagi-
nation had already given birth to a grand project for
America. It consisted in forming a company to
purchase a large tract of land, and found a colony
upon the most liberal principles. Brissot went and
surveyed the country; and this voyage, of which
he published a relation, by no means damped his
ardour for liberty under republican forms. On his
return, he found France in a state to induce him to
renounce this project ; for she seemed about to re-
ceive that freedom which he and Claviere had in-
tended to seek on the other side of the Atlantic.


When the states- general were on the eve of assem-
bling, Claviere published his work on keeping faith
with the public creditor, which made him very
popular with the holders of public stock. During
the session of the national assembly, he connected
himself with Mirabeau, whose influence he foresaw
would be very great, and through whom he hoped
to overthrow and succeed M. Necker. But he had
made himself many enemies among the stock-jobbers
and the directors of the caisse d^escompte. He was
the inventor of assignats, and published on this sub-
ject so great a number of pamphlets, that they
would form several volumes. Necker did not fall
from his high eminence, but slid, as it were, down a
rapid slope ; and his departure was as clandestine as
his return to office had been triumphant. But Mi-
rabeau's power was not sufficient to create a minister,
and Claviere remained in the crowd. It was Brissot
— that Brissot whom Mirabeau had so much con-
temned — who raised his friend to the ministry.
The king, who knew Glaviere's history, and was con-
scious of having driven him from his country, 'could
not at first see him without distrust. He did not,
however, show this feeling, and for some time
treated Claviere \Vith very little attention ; but this
coldness wore off by degrees, and at length he seem-
ed to transact business with his new minister, not
only without repugnance but with pleasure.


At Geneva, Claviere had been one of the leaders
of the popular party. Shrewd and penetrating, he
obtained the credit of being also cunning and artful.
He was a man of superior intellect. Deaf from his
youth, and deprived, by this infirmity, of the plea-
sures of society, he had sought a compensation in
study, and formed his education by associating poli-
tics and moral philosophy with trade. He was of a
timid character and devoid of personal courage, and
yet he found himself, all his life, in situations requir-
ing physical intrepidity. It seemed as if his mind
and constitution did not act in conjunction, for he
always attacked arbitrary power, though he trembled
at the danger which he thereby incurred. To him
might be applied what Madame de Flahault said of
Sieyes: that he was the most enterprising coward in
the world. He was fond of being placed in difficult
and uneasy situations, and yet was terrified at the
consequences. He used to say, that if political dis-
putes in a free state did harm, they did still more
good, because they placed every one in a situation
much more agreeable than the insipidity of repose.
He could, when he chose, praise even anarchy, and
find ingenious sophisms to defend it. His activity
was prodigious. He rose in the middle of the nighc,
wrote fifty pages, took an hour's repose, then followed
his private aifairs. His style was too diffuse ; it de-
noted a want of literature and elementary education.
2 R


In spite of his republicanism, he was fond of luxury
and display ; and there was a singular contrast be-
tween his love of splendour and the severity of his
principles; but he never satisfied this taste for
sumptuous living at the expense of probity, and in
money matters he was always irreproachable. His
elevation to the ministry had an effect upon him
which shows that his mind was cast in no common
mould — he became more modest and affable, although
he had never been haughty or presumptuous. His
new dignity was perceptible only by an increase of
simplicity and kindness ; and in this he was very
different from Brissot, whose attainment of the great
influence he enjoyed, had turned his brain, and he
no longer spoke but in oracles, and could not bear

Claviere found his offices in excellent order.
They had been formed on the new plan, and with
the greatest care and trouble, by his predecessor,
Tarbe, upon whom he bestowed such encomiums as
almost seemed to hold him up to public regret.
This is not the characteristic of a vulgar mind.*

He possessed all the domestic virtues, and his inter-
course with his friends became more easy and plea-

* Claviere, seeing the immense expense of the services of the
nobles, who vi^ere paid according to their rank and not their
office, observed, " This is like getting potatoes cultivated by a
Dutch florist instead of a common gardener."— iV'ote byDumont.


sant when he had arrived at the height of his am-

He was naturally of a warm temper, and not free
from a species of bluntness ; but this was entirely
constitutional, and did not originate in pride. It
was like the anger of a child, soon appeased and for-

He was of opinion, after he became a member of
the cabinet, and had opportunities of judging, that
the king's intentions were pure, and he did not hesi-
tate to say so. I have heard many disputes upon
this point, and I recollect one in particular, which
took place at Roland's in the presence of several
Girondist deputies. Claviere was relating that the
king had convicted him of being unacquainted with
a particular clause in the constitution ; that he had
pulled out his book from his pocket, and said with a
smile as he showed Claviere the passage, '^^ There,
M. Claviere, you see I am better acquainted with it
than you." As Claviere continued to speak in praise
of the king, Brissot became angry, and having begun
with sarcasms soon came to imputations. A very
angry discussion took place, and I once feared that it
would end in a rupture. Claviere appealed to Ro-
land, who was afraid either to confirm or contradict
what he said. He feared, should he dare to be just
towards the king, whose minister he was, to pass for
a weak man who had suffered himself to be seduced.
I approached Madame Roland, who was at her desk


and pretended to be writing. She was pale and
trembling with agitation. I urged her to come for-
ward and put an end to the quarrel. "Do you
think I ought?" said she, hesitating; and then with
much address and suavity of manner, she managed to
change the conversation, and prolong it sufficiently
to give the two friends time to become calm.

Madame Claviere would fain have become a second
Madame Roland, but she possessed only in vanity
that which Madame Roland had in talent and cou-
rage. In her I saw one of the miracles of royal
power. When her husband was appointed to the
ministry, she was in a dying state; a nervous fever
left scarcely any hopes of saving her life ; — but the
physician said, ''^ I can now answer for her cure, and
in four days, you shall see her leave her bed to show
off at the hotel of public contributions." This pre-
diction was verified, and the joy and novelty of her
situation Operated with better effect than all the
remedies that medical skill could devise.

Characters are easily drawn when you have to
satisfy your readers only; but to the writer who sub-
mits them to the test of his own recollections, and is
anxious to give a faithful account of the persons
whom he best knew, nothing is more difficult. The
human heart is such a medley of good and evil, mo-
tives are so hidden, and each individual so complica-
ted, that there is always something incommunicable.
A certain portion must escape observation ; every


thing cannot be given an account of, and it is im-
possible to transmit the whole of what is felt.

I have now only general recollections ; facts,
speeches, anecdotes — a thousand singular details of
this stormy period have gone from my memory.
Had I kept a journal of this sojourn at Paris, placed
as I was in the midst of a political party, and intimate
with all the ministers, I should now have materials
for an interesting work. I seldom went to the legis-
lative assembly, whose members were more incohe-
rent and prejudiced than those of the constituent
assembly. There was no Mirabeau ; but each party
had distinguished speakers. Amongst the Giron-
dists, Guadet was noticed for his talent of seizing a
favourable opportunity, and his powers of sophistry ;
Gensonne for his acuteness and subtlety ; Vergniaud,
who appeared only on grand occasions, was roused
from his habitual indolence, by the impassioned
workings of his scorching and terrible eloquence.*

* The Girondists may be considered in two points of view.
As avowed enemies of the king and constitution, they incurred
the most merited reproaches; as enemies of Robespierre and
the jacobins, their loss must be deplored, and their destruction
involved France in the most dreadful misfortunes. As subjects
of a monarchy they were highly criminal ; as republicans they
had honourable qualities ; and if the historian blames their con-
duct prior to the 10th of August, he will comparatively esteem
them after that period, and deplore both their elevation and
their fall. — Note by Dumont.



I HAVE reserved for this chapter, the most important
point, the only one indeed belonging to history ; I
mean the declaration of war against Austria.

The memoirs of Duraouriez upon his own adminis-
tration are generally very correct, and yet there are
reticences in them. I much regret, on this account,
not having kept notes.

Brissot had long been desirous of a rupture with
Austria. His Cabinet Jlutrichien excited his ima-
gination, and open hostility appeared to him prefera-
ble to that state of obscurity and intrigue which then
existed. The court of Vienna scarcely condescend-
ed any longer to give pretences to its manoeuvres,
and yet was not determined to go to war. I am per-
suaded that a display of firmness, moderation and de-
corum with that court, would have averted the storm.
The constitution was yet a species of unknown, a
new being which created alarm ; tact and address
were required to make it respected and insure its


pardon for the crime of innovation; but unfortunate-
ly it was always made formidable, and the violence
of the jacobins rendered it odious. Had the Giron-
dists shown themselves desirous of conciliating the
good will of the king, they would have disarmed the
whole of Europe, rendered the emigrants ridiculous,
and maintained the peace of the country. There
was so little unison between the other powers, and so
little disposed were they to act in conjunction, that
with some slight diplomatic manoeuvring France
would have had nothing to fear. Such was the
opinion of the moderate party, and I am convinced

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