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which he again refused. The Collector then opened the trunks himself, and took out every paper and letter, sealed or unsealed. On our remonstrating with him on the bad policy, as well as the illegality of Custom-house Officers seizing papers and letters, which were things that did not come under their cognizance, he replied, that the Proclamation gave him the authority.
Among the letters which he took out of my trunk were two sealed letters, given into my charge by the American Minister in London, one of which was directed to the American Minister at Paris, the other to a private gentleman; a letter from the President of the United States, and a letter from the Secretary of State in America, both directed to me, and which I had received from the American Minister now in London, and were private letters of friendship; a letter from the Electoral Body of the department of Calais containing the notification of my being elected to the National Convention; and a letter from the President of the National Assembly, informing me of my being also elected for the department of Oise.
As we found that all remonstrances with the Collector, on the bad policy and illegality of seizing papers and letters, and retaining our persons by force, under the pretence of searching for prohibited articles, were vain, (for he justified himself on the Proclamation, and on the information which he refused to shew) we contented ourselves with assuring him, that what he was then doing, he would afterwards have to answer for, and left it to himself to do as he pleased.
It appeared to us that the Collector was acting under the direction of some other person or persons then in the Hotel, but whom he did not choose we should see, or who did not choose to be seen by us; for the Collector went several times out of the room for a few minutes, and was also called out several times.
When the Collector had taken what papers and letters he pleased out of the trunks, he proceeded to read them. The first letter he took up for this purpose was that from the President of the United States to me. While he was doing this, I said, that it was very extraordinary that General Washington could not write a letter of private friendship to me without its being subject to be read by a Customhouse Officer. Upon this Mr. Frost laid his hand over the face of the letter, and told the Collector that he should not read it, and took it from him. Mr. Frost then casting his eyes on the concluding paragraph of the letter, said, I will read this part to you, which he did; of which the following is an exact transcript—" And as no one can see a greater interest in the happiness of mankind than I do, it is the first wish of my heart, that the enlightened policy of the present age may diffuse to all men those blessings to which they are entitled, and lay the foundation of happiness to future generations."
As all the other letters and papers lay then on the table, the Collector took them up, and was going out of the room with them. During the transactions already stated, I contented myself with observing what passed, and spoke but little; but on seeing the Collector going out of the room with the letters, I told him that the papers and letters then in his hand, were either belonging to me, or entrusted to my charge, and that as I could not permit them to be out of my sight, I must insist on going with him.
The Collector then made a list of the letters and papers, and went out of the room, giving the letters and papers into the charge of one of the officers. He returned in a short time, and, after some trifling conversation, chiefly about the Proclamation, told us, that he saw the Proclamation was ill-founded, and asked if we chose to put the letters and papers into the trunks ourselves, which, as we had not taken them out, we declined doing, and he did it himself, and returned us the keys.
In stating to you these matters, I make no complaint against the personal conduct of the Collector, or of any of the officers. Their manner was as civil as such an extraordinary piece of business could admit of.
My chief motive in writing to you. on this subject is, that you may take the measures for preventing the like in future, not only as it concerns private individuals, but in order to prevent a renewal of those unpleasant consequences that have heretofore arisen between nations from circumstances equally as insignificant. I mention this only for myself; but as the interruption extended to two other gentlemen, it is probable that they, as individuals, will take some more effectual mode for redress.
I am, Sir, your's, &c.
P. S. Among the papers seized was a copy of the Attorney-General's information against me for publishing the Rigkls of Man, and a printed proof copy of my Letter to the Addressers, which will soon be published.
TO THE PEOPLE OF FRANCE.
I Receive, with affectionate gratitude, the honour which the late National Assembly has conferred upon me, by adopting me a citizen of France; and the additional honour of being elected by my fellow citizens a Member of the National Convention. Happily impressed, as I am, by those testimonies of respect shewn towards me as an individual, I feel my felicity increased by seeing the barrier broken down that divided patriotism by spots of earth, and limited citizenship to the soil, like vegetation. >
Had those honours been conferred in an hour of national tranquillity, they would have afforded no other means of shewing my affection, than to have accepted and enjoyed them; but they come accompanied with circumstances that give me the honourable opportunity of commencing my citizenship in the stormy hour of difficulties. I come not to enjoy repose. Convinced that the cause of France is the cause of all mankind, and that as liberty cannot be purchased by a wish, I gladly share with you the dangers and honours necessary to success.
I am well aware that the moment of any great change, such as that accomplished on the 10th of August, is unavoidably the moment of terror and confusion. The mind, highly agitated by hope, suspicion and apprehension, continues without rest till the change be accomplished. But let us now look calmly and confidentially forward, and success is certain. It is no longer the paltry cause of kings, or of this, or of that individual, that calls France and her armies into action. It is the great cause of ALL. It is the establishment of a new era, that shall blot despotism from the earth, and fix, on the lasting principles of peace and citizenship, the great Republic of Man.
It has been my fate to have borne a share in the commencement and complete establishment of one Revolution —I mean the Revolution of America. The success and events of that Revolution are encouraging to us. The prosperity and happiness that have since flowed to that country, have amply rewarded her for all the hardships she endured, and for all the dangers she encountered.
The principles on which that Revolution began, have extended themselves to Europe; and an over-ruling Providence is regenerating the Old World by the principles of the New. The distance of America from all other parts of the globe did not admit of her carrying those principles beyond her own situation. It is to the peculiar honour of France, that she now raises the standard of liberty for all nations; and in fighting her own battles contends for the rights of all mankind.
The same spirit of fortitude that insured success to America, will insure it to France, for it is impossible to conquer a nation determined to be free! The military circumstances that now unite themselves to France, are such as the despots of the earth know nothing of, and can form no calculation upon. They know not what it is to fight against a nation; they have only been accustomed to make war upon each other, and they know from system and practice, how to calculate the probable success of despot against despot; and here their knowledge and their experience end.
But in a contest like the present, a new and boundless variety of circumstances arise, that deranges all such customary calculations. When a whole nation acts as an army, the despot knows not the extent of the power against which he contends. New armies rise against him with the necessity of the moment. It is then that the difficulties of an invading enemy multiply, as in the former case they diminished; and he finds them at their height when he expected them to end.
The only war that has any similarity of circumstances with the present, is the late revolutionary war in America. On her part, as it now is in France, it was a war of the whole nation:—there it was that the enemy, by beginning to conquer, put himself in a condition of being conquered. His first victories prepared him for defeat. He advanced till he could not retreat, and found himself in the midst of a nation of armies.
Were it now to be proposed to the Austrians and Prussians to escort them into the middle of France, and there leave them to make the most of such a situation, they would see much into the dangers of it to accept the offer, and the same dangers would attend them, could they arrive there by any other means. Where, then, is the military policy of their attempting to obtain, by force, that which they would
refuse by choice?
reason away. The best of argument is a vigorous preparation.
Man is ever a stranger to the ways by which Providence regulates the order of things. The interference of foreign despots may serve to introduce into their own enslaved countries the principles they come to oppose. Liberty and equality are blessings too great to be the inheritance of France alone. It is honour to her to be their first champion; and she may now say to her enemies, with a mighty voice, "O, ye Austrians, ye Prussians! ye who now turn your bayonets against us, it is for you, it is for all Europe, it is for all mankind, and not for France alone, that she raises the standard of Liberty and Equality."
The public cause has hitherto suffered from the contradictions contained in the Constitution of the former Constituent Assembly. Those contradictions have served to divide the opinions of individuals at home, and to obscure the great principles of the Revolution in other countries. But when those contradictions shall be removed, and the Constitution be made conformable to the Declaration of Rights; when the bagatelles of monarchy, royalty, regency, and hereditary succession, shall be exposed, with all their absurdities, a new ray of light will be thrown over the world, and the Revolution will derive new strength by being universally understood.
The scene that now opens itself to France, extends far beyond the boundaries of her own dominions. Every nation is becoming her colleague, and every court is become her enemy. It is now the cause of all nations against the cause of all courts. The terrors that despotism felt, clandestinely begot a confederation of despots; and their attack upon France is produced by their fears at home.
In entering on this great scene, greater than any nation has yet been called to act in, let us say to the agitated mind, be calm. Let us punish by instructing, rather than by revenge. Let us begin the new era by a greatness of friendship, and hail the approach of union and success.