27 October 1789: Negotiating the French Debt

Tuesday 27. — (…) L. Le Couteulx sends me a Note desiring that I would dine with Mr. Necker to converse about the french Debt. I go thither. Mr. de Stahl is very polite and attentive. After Dinner we retire to the Minister’s Cabinet. De Cantelleu and I open the Conversation. Tell Mr. Necker that the Terms he seems attached to differ so materially from what I had thought of that no definitive Bargain can be made, and therefore after fixing the Terms I must have Time to consult Persons in London and Amsterdam. That he is the best Judge as to the Sum below which he cannot go. That I will not attempt to bring him lower than what he thinks he can justify, but if it is too high I am off. That having fixed the Sum we will then fix the Terms, and finally, he must be bound and I free. That it is necessary to keep the Transaction secret, because whether we bargain or not if my Name be mentioned it will destroy the Utility of my Friends in America, who have been and will continue to be firm Advocates for doing Justice to every Body. And further, that if it be known in America that France is willing to abate, it will be a Motive with many to ask Abatements on the Part of the United States. He feels the Force of these Observations and desires to consider how far he and Mr. de Montmorin can treat this Affair without the Assembly. He does not like the Idea of being bound and leaving me free. I observe to him that nothing is more natural. He is Master of his Object and can say at once Yes or No, but I must apply to others and it cannot be expected that rich Bankers will hold their Funds at my Disposal upon the Issue of an uncertain Event, much less withdraw those Funds from other Occupation. He agrees that there is Force in this Observation. He then talks of ten Millions per Annum for three Years as being a proper Consideration. I tell him that I cannot agree to such Sum. He says he has been spoken to about it and is informed that he can discount it in Holland at twenty per Cent. I tell him that I doubt the Fact because, having been in Correspondence with two Capital Houses in Holland relative to a Loan which I am authorized to make, they both inform me that the several Loans now opened for different Powers and the Scarcity of Money renders Success impossible. De Canteleu presses me to offer Terms. I mention 300,000* a Month, to begin with next January and continue till the 24,000,000* are paid. Here this Part of the Conversation ends.

A diary of the French revolution, by Gouverneur Morris, 1752-1816. Ed. by Beatrix Cary Davenport. Vol. 1 (Boston, 1939), p. 272-273.

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