3 November 1789: Breakfast with Lafayette & Negotiations with Necker

It is a second entry from the Gouverneur Morris’s diary in a row, but I found his today’s conversation particularly interesting. I have to confess, too, that the character starts to fascinate me, which of course contradicts the logic of randomisation I wanted to pursue initially.

Tuesday… — This Morning at half past eight the Bishop D’Autun calls on me and we breakfast. He tells me that Mons[ieu]r de Poix is to visit Mons[ieu]r de La Fayette this Morning in order to make Terms for Mirabeau. We talk a little about Mons[ieu]r de La Fayette, his Worth and what he is worth. At nine go to visit him; the Cabriolet of Mons[ieu]r le prieur de Poix is at the Porte Cochère, whence we know he is here. Mons[ieu]r de La Fayette is closeted with him. A great many Visitors and Affairs render the Moments for our Conversation short. Lafayette makes Professions of Esteem and desires to receive frequent Visits. There is an Emeute in the Faubourg St. Antoine about Bread, which leads to a Consideration of the Means to supply Paris. Lafayette proposes a Committee consisting of three Ministers, three of the Municipality of Paris and three Members of the Etats generaux, and says there is a Man who, acting under such a Committee, can secure the Supplies. The Bishop thinks the Assembly will not meddle. I am sure they will not, because they act only from Fear and will not risque the Consequence of being responsible for the Subsistence of this City. Lafayette asks the Bishop what he thinks of a new Ministry. He says that Nobody but Mr. Necker can sustain the Famine and Bankruptcy which appear unavoidable. La Fayette asks if he does not think it would be right to prepare a Ministry for some Months hence. The Bishop thinks it would. They discuss a little Characters and, as par Hazard, La Fayette asks whether Mirabeau’s Influence in the Assembly is great, to which the Bishop replies that it is not enormous. We fall back by Degrees to the Subsistence and I suggest a Hint which Short had given me, viz to give Medals to the Poor representing a Pound of Bread and then to let it rise to what Price it may, by which Means the Government will in Effect pay for the Bread they eat and for that only, whereas they now pay for a Part of what every Body eats. On this the Bishop observes that the Ministers in this Moment when the Charge of Plots is so frequent, will be accused of a Conspiracy against the Nation if they make Largesses of Bread to the Multitude. I think he sees that this Plan would give Administration too much Power to be removed, and he is right. His Idea I think is to come in when the Magazines are full and then to do what he wishes may not be now done. La Fayette in the Course of Conversation mentions his friend the Duc de La Rochefoucault, saying at the same Time that he has not the needful Abilities but that his Integrity and Reputation are important. I think this is the only Man he will insist upon and I think any Person we please may be admitted as the Price of the Duke’s Admission. The Bishop says he cannot think of a new Ministry unless the Change is entire. La Fayette agrees to this and says that in this Moment the Friends of Liberty ought to unite and to understand each other. At coming away the Bishop observes to me that La Fayette has no fixed Plan, which is true. With a great Deal of the Intriguant in his Character he must be used by others because he has not Talents enough to make Use of them. Set the Bishop down at the Palais royal and then return Home. Dress. (…) Chevalier de Carro. He is very wroth with the National Assembly for taking the Church Lands as well as for other Things which they have done. He concludes that the Provinces will not consent to the Appropriation of this Property to the national Use, and this is the Opinion of many, but I think they are mistaken for no Person is so directly interested, except the Clergy, as to make it a personal Object; and as to public Spirit it cannot exist among a People so lately emancipated. Go from hence to Mr. Necker’s. Mons[ieu]r Vauviliers receives me in the Draw[in]g Room with a Compliment as being the Person who is to feed France. After Dinner Mr. Necker takes me aside and agrees to the first Proposition in my Letter but wishes to tie me down to fixed Periods. I agree that the first 20,000 bill[ion]s shall be shipped in America by the fifteenth of March and all others by the 3oth of June. He asks for a longer Term of Payment than 30 Days and I offer him at once 60. He wishes for the Remainder after the first 20 m[illions], 90 Days. I refuse and give my Reasons. Having agreed I tell him that I wish to have a House to contract with me. He says I run no Risque and he will have the Agreement signed by the King. Afterwards he mentions the Debt, but on this Subject we are not likely to agree. He has got to thirty Millions and I think twenty four too high. He considers, but immediately cuts short the Conversation, whether with the Intention to end finally the Affair or to take farther Time for Consideration I know not. (…) …my Carriage comes and takes me to Club. I find that the Assembly have this Day suspended the Parliaments. This is a better Blow at Tyranny than any they have yet struck but it will occasion much Ferment among the numerous influential Characters which they are composed of. (…)

A diary of the French revolution, by Gouverneur Morris, 1752-1816. Ed. by Beatrix Cary Davenport. Vol. 1 (Boston, 1939), p. 282-284.

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