1 November 1789: Mauvais Sujets & La Harpe

Sunday 1 November. — This Morning visit Mr. Van Staphorst. He tells me that Money is tolerably abundant in Holland. I ask him how Mr. Necker’s does. He has not seen him, he does not see him, and does not desire to see him. Their House are no longer Bankers to the King in Holland. It is Grand’s House. I ask if upon the Deposit of a considerable Sum of the American Debt a Loan could be obtained in Holland. He thinks there might. I tell him that I wish I could have gone sometime ago to Holland, because I should have proposed a Speculation in Wheat and Flour to his House. He says he thought some time ago of mentioning it to me but omitted it, or rather, deferred it. Go from hence to the Louvre. Madame [Flahaut] is ill… and is unfortunately for her to have a pretty large Company at Dinner. Her Phisician comes in and tells her that a Mr. Vandermont has said of me that I am an Intriguant, un mauvais Sujet and a Partisan of the Duc D’Orleans. He insists not to be named. She tells me that this Man is very dangerous, being a fort mauvais Sujet, and wishes me to speak to La Fayette. There is but one Thing to be done if I stir at all and that is to call on him and tell him that if he speaks disrespectfully of me again I will put him to Death, but in Times like the present such Conduct would only give an Air of Importance to what must otherwise fall of itself, for I am not of sufficient Consequence to occupy the public Attention. This Man, she says, would not scruple to bring me to the Lanthorn, in other Words to have me hanged. This would be rather a sharp Retribution for the Remark which has excited his Rage. On the fifth of last Month he dined with me at Mr. Lavoisier’s and observed that Paris maintained the Kingdom of France, to which I answered: ‘Oui Monsieur, comme mot je nourris les Eliphants de Siam.’ This excited the choleric Humors of a Pedant and he takes his Revenge by saying Things which luckily are too improbable to be believed. On the whole I resolve to take no Notice of this Thing, particularly as I could not produce my Author should Mr. Vandermont deny the Fact, and that would place me in a very ridiculous Position. We have this Day a very excellent and a very pleasant Dinner. At five I visit the Marquis de La Fayette. He tells me that he has followed my Advice tho he did not answer my Letter. I congratulate him on what passed two Days ago from a Gentleman to the Count de Mirabeau, which was so pointedly affrontive as to ruin him, because he cannot be now placed in the Ministry and is lost in the Opinion of the Assembly. He asks with Eagerness if I think he is lost with them. I reply that the Bishop D’Autun has just expressed that Opinion to me. He says he does not know the Bishop much and should be glad to know him more. I offer to give them a Dinner together the Day after To Morrow. Or if he does not chuse it I will say nothing about the Matter. He desires me to say nothing of it because if he should dine with me instead of dining at Home it would make an histoire, which is true. He wishes me however to bring the Bishop to Breakfast with him the Day after to Morrow. I promise to invite him. (…) Go to Mad.e de La Borde’s. A Mr. de La Harpe reads us some Observations on La Rochefoucault, La Bruyere and St. Evremond. They have Merit but are liable to Criticism and with the more Justice as they form Part of a great Work which is itself a Criticism. After Supper we fall into Politics. He tells us that the Municipality of Rouen have stopped some Grain intended for Paris. This leads to Observations on the many headed Monster they have created in the Executive Department. He exculpates the Assembly as having been obliged to destroy in Order to correct. But the Necessity of such an Apology augurs ill. Indeed whenever Apology for the Conduct of Government becomes necessary they are in the Way towards Contempt for they must acknowlege Misconduct before they excuse it, and the World is kind enough to believe the Acknowlegement and reject the Excuse. This has been a clear Day but rather cold.

A diary of the French revolution, by Gouverneur Morris, 1752-1816. Ed. by Beatrix Cary Davenport. Vol. 1 (Boston, 1939), p. 278-281.

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