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He was of opinion that all our constitutions of government were bad, because they were planned on that of England, which was calculated to guard against tyranny, of which we had nothing to fear; that the different members of the legislature were anti-democratic distinctions; that democracy required simplicity, and one single corps, in which government should reside.
Supped in the evening with Prince Pigneatelle and the Baron, who defended the Dardanelles against the Russian fleet. He said he could bring but one gun at a time to bear
upon the Russian ships, which were commanded by Admiral Elphingston, that upon firing some red hot balls they retired and would never make the attack again, though the walls were so thin and ill-constructed that nothing could have been more easy than to have battered them down. He said that both the Turks and Russians were contemptible beyond expression, that eighteen sail of the Turkish fleet got into a little bay to avoid eleven sail of Russian ships where they were burnt by two fire ships, sent in by the advice of some English volunteers on board the Russian fleet; that the Russian fleet in its turn cut their cables and made off from the siege of Lemnos, upon the landing of three thousand Turks, without a single piece of cannon. He said that the vizier having ordered six thousand troops to cross over in boats to relieve an island besieged by the Russians; he stated that a Russian ship would sink them all without any difficulty, to which the vizier replied, “no matter, it would be so many rascals lost."
23d. Returned Mons. de la Luzerne's visit. Found Mons. de Marbois, secretary to the embassy only at home. He desired me to give them such advice as I thought would be useful to them in America. I told him that a loan or subsidy was the most necessary thing, and therefore the most useful and acceptable they could do for us ; that we could not carry on the war longer upon credit, as our funds were much depreciated; that their prudent method, as well as most dignified, would be, not to meddle at all with parties in America, but assist congress with good advice; and not embarrass
them with memoirs founded upon the factious reports of individuals, being a very unjust and offensive suspicion of the good faith of congress.
He answered that from his knowledge of the finances here he did not think any money could be obtained ; that they understood we were disarming, and yet the most vigorous efforts were required on our part to prevent the English from falling on us and overwhelming us; that Mons. Luzerne, I might depend, would not concern himself in parties, nor engage in trade and jobs, as Mons. G. had done, with Mr. D. He told me that Mons. de Luzerne was endeavouring to get Spain to furnish money, for that France could not.
28th April. Visited Count d'Aussun. We conversed about Spain. He informed me that Spain had fifty ships of the line well armed, and their finances were in such a state that they could support a war for three out borrowing. I observed that their fleet must be very expensive ; he said not near as much so as in France and England, for such regulations had been established as prevented the king from being cheated. He observed that there was no certainty that Spain would declare, but that the campaign must soon begin, and we should see. Conversing about Count d'Estaing, I observed it would have been much better had his fleet been sent from Brest, as it would have gained six weeks, and the English being unprepared, must all have fallen into our hands. Mons. de Sartine was against sending the fleet from Toulon, but he was overruled. I mentioned my surprise that the provision fleets from Cork were suffered to go without being intercepted, when it was so easy, their convoy being always weak, and which must have ruined the enemy in America if they had been captured; that I had repeatedly given the minister information of it, and yet nothing was done. Mons. d'Aussun said, that I should make a memoire of it, and suggest a plan for intercepting them. I answered that every seaman knew the latitude for cruising between Cork and America. Count Sarsefeild was with us.
May Ist. Dined with Mons. Malesherbes, formerly mi
ister, and uncle to Mons. de la Luzerne. The latter en-
Mons. de Malesherbes is a man of extensive reading and
May 3d. Gen. Beckwith, from England, called upon me. This was the gentleman who served during the last war in Germany with such reputation, and was so high in favour with Prince Ferdinand, and at the end of the war was recommended by him to the king of Prussia, who gave him the rank of general, and made him governor of Embden. He had been in treaty with me in 1776 to serve in America, but he would not go unless I would accompany him, and unless he were to have rank above Gen. Lee. He told me the troops of Mirbeck, consisting of 5000, were engaged to go to America. He assured me he knew that Prince Ferdinand offered to take the command, but that Lord's ancient enmity prevented him. He said he called to see our minister, Dr. Franklin, but he was not at home; that he should go again to-morrow; that he had a message for him from Mr. Strahan, the king's printer in London; and had directed Mr. Hope, at Amsterdam, to direct his letters to Dr. Franklin.*
7th. Gen. Beckwith called on me again. He told me that Gen. Gray's manner of surprising Gen. Wayne, was by a manæuvre practised in Germany, the making the men uncharge, so that they could not fire to give any
* Dr. Franklin was at this time our minister plenipotentiary in France,
alarm, but attack with bayonets. He said Gen. Gray told him this had been much practised since by the king's troops. Gen. Gray spoke highly of Gen. Washington, but thought he was nervous by constitution. He said that the Americans were not disciplined, nor the British. I asked Gen. Beckwith whether he thought there were more than ten thousand effective men in Great Britain ; he said, hardly so many, for there were only seventeen battalions, including seven foot-guards. He said Gen. Clinton had repeatedly desired to be recalled; that a commission was gone out for Vaughan to be the second in command; that though Clinton and he were good soldiers, they were not capable of command. Lord Shelburne, he said, would come into the ministry if things went ill, and would push the war in America, and would employ Prince Ferdinand. He spoke highly of Lord S.'s abilities, as the only man in England that would make peace.
He then desired to speak to me in private. He informed me he had opened himself to the French ambassador at the Hague, and informed him of his wish to enter the French service, and serve in America. He said he had got a letter from him to Count Vergennes, which he had delivered; that the count told him he must consult Prince Montbarey; that he then informed Dr. Franklin of his desire to serve in America, who assured him he would immediately acquaint congress. The general asked me if I thought this was a genteel put off, or whether the Dr. had indeed no power to appoint him. For though in settled governments such powers were only in the sovereign, yet in our situation he imagined that such a power might be in Dr. Franklin. I told him I had not seen Dr. F.'s powers, but that whatever special power he might have on that head, I was satisfied he could not have a general one. He said he could not wait six months in doubt. He asked if our generals received their orders from Gen. Washington, or from congress. I told him I believed from the latter, through the former.
10th. Visited Mons. de Malesherbes, and talked with
him of their lettre de cachet. He said it was liable to abuse, and was often abused, but that it was necessary to supply the defects of the law, and for the great against their inferiors; e.g. if my servant is impudent, or offers to strike me, instead of prosecuting him at law, I have him imprisoned by a lettre de cachet. He said when he was minister he wanted to regulate their application, but could not succeed. I asked whether the officer, when he went to seize a man by virtue of a lettre de cachet, was obliged, on demand, to show the lettre? He said no, and that made them subject to so much abuse, especially in the provinces."
(c) Supplies for the State of Virginia.
« VERSAILLES, June 5th, 1778. You will see sir, by the enclosed letter from the Prince de Montbarey, and by the statement annexed, that I have used the utmost activity in executing the commission you recommended to me. If the plan which this minister proposes should be agreeable to you it would be proper
for you to converse with him, to settle the terms. I will procure you an opportunity of doing it whenever you please.
I shall always be extremely flattered when you furnish me particularly, opportunities of showing my readiness to serve the United States, and to you sir, the perfect esteem, with which I have the honour, &c. &c.*
(Signed) DE VERGENNES. To Mr. Lee."
“ VERSAILLES, 13th June 1778. In
consequence sir, of what you requested of the Count de Vergennes and of me, I have given the necessary orders that the artillery you desire should be collected at Nantes according to your wishes, and conformable to the annexed statement, which I have the honour of
* The above and following letters are copied from translations by Mr. A. Lee
from the originals.