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Title: Beaumarchais and the War of American Independence, Vol. 2
Author: Kite, Elizabeth Sarah, 1864-1954
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Beaumarchais and the War of American Independence, Vol. 2" ***

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  Transcriber’s Note

  This book was published in two volumes, of which this is the second.

  Two incorrect index sub-entries for Beaumarchais have been corrected:
    jealousies aroused against -- page changed from 6 to 304
    judged by parliament Maupeou -- page changed from 24 to 100



                              BEAUMARCHAIS

                            _And the War of
                         American Independence_

                                   BY

                           ELIZABETH S. KITE

        _Diplôme d’instruction Primaire-Supérieure, Paris, 1905
        Member of the Staff of the Vineland Research Laboratory_

                           WITH A FOREWORD BY
                             JAMES M. BECK
                _Author of “The Evidence in the Case”_

                              TWO VOLUMES
                              VOLUME TWO

                              ILLUSTRATED

                             [Illustration]

                                 BOSTON
                           RICHARD G. BADGER
                            THE GORHAM PRESS


                  COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY RICHARD G. BADGER

                          All Rights Reserved

                  Made in the United States of America

                   The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A.


“_The faith of a believer is a spring to which uncertain convictions
yield; this was the case of Beaumarchais with the King in the cause of
American Independence._”

                              _Gaillardet, in Le Chevalier d’Eon._



CONTENTS


                               CHAPTER XV
                                                                   PAGE

    Curious History of the Chevalier d’Eon—Secret Agent of Louis
      XV—The Chevalier Feigns to Be a Woman—Curiosity of London
      Aroused—Necessity for the French Government to Obtain
      Possession of State Papers in d’Eon’s Hands—Beaumarchais
      Accepts Mission—Obtains Possession of the Famous Chest         13


                              CHAPTER XVI

    Beaumarchais’s Earliest Activities in the Cause of American
      Independence—First Steps of the Government of
      France-Bonvouloir—Discord Among Parties in
      England—Beaumarchais’s Memoirs to the King—Meets Arthur
      Lee—Lee’s Letter to Congress—King Still Undecided—Curious
      Letter of Beaumarchais, with Replies Traced in the
      Handwriting of the King                                        31


                             CHAPTER XVII

    Beaumarchais’s English Connections—With Lord Rochford—With
      Wilkes—Meets Arthur Lee—Sends Memoirs to the King—His
      Commission to Buy Portuguese Coin—Called to Account by
      Lord Rochford—Vergennes’s Acceptance of his Ideas—Article
      in _The Morning Chronicle_                                     56


                            CHAPTER XVIII

    Memoirs Explaining to the King the Plan of His Commercial
      House—Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.—The Doctor Dubourg—Silas
      Deane’s Arrival—His Contract with Beaumarchais—Lee’s
      Anger—His Misrepresentations to Congress—Beaumarchais Obtains
      His Rehabilitation                                             77


                              CHAPTER XIX

    Suspicions of England Aroused Through Indiscretions of Friends
      of America—Treachery of du Coudray—Counter Order Issued
      Against Shipments of Beaumarchais—Franklin’s Arrival—England’s
      Attempt to Make Peace Stirs France—Counter Order
      Recalled—Ten Ships Start Out—Beaumarchais Cleared by
      Vergennes                                                     104


                               CHAPTER XX

    The Declaration of Independence and Its Effect in
      Europe—Beaumarchais’s Activity in Getting Supplies to
      America—Difficulties Arise About Sailing—Lafayette’s
      Contract with Deane—His Escape to America—Beaumarchais’s
      Losses—Baron von Steuben Sails for America in Beaumarchais’s
      Vessel, Taking the Latter’s Nephew, des Epinières, and His
      Agent, Theveneau de Francy—The Surrender of
      Burgoyne—Beaumarchais Finds Himself Set Aside While Others
      Take His Place—Faces Bankruptcy—Vergennes Comes to His
      Assistance                                                    126


                              CHAPTER XXI

    De Francy Sails for America—His Disappointment in the New
      World—Beaumarchais Recounts His Grievances against the
      Deputies at Passy—Rejoices Over American Victories—Manœuvers
      to Insure Safety to His Ships—The Depreciation
      Of Paper Money in America—De Francy Comes to the Aid of
      Lafayette—Contract between Congress and De Francy Acting
      for Roderigue et Cie.—Letters of Lee to Congress—Bad Faith
      of that Body—Deane’s Signature to Documents Drawn up by
      Franklin and Lee—Beaumarchais’s Triumph at Aix—Gudin
      Seeks Refuge at the Temple—Letters of Mlle. Ninon             154


                             CHAPTER XXII

    Deane’s Recall—Beaumarchais’s Activity in Obtaining for Him
      Honorable Escort—Letters to Congress—Reception of
      Deane—Preoccupation of Congress at the Moment of His
      Return—Arnold and Deane in Philadelphia the Summer of
      1778—Deane’s Subsequent Conduct—Letters of Carmichaël
      and Beaumarchais—_Le Fier Roderigue_—Silas Deane Returns
      to Settle Accounts—Debate Over the “Lost Million”—Mr.
      Tucker’s Speech—Final Settlement of the Claim of the
      Heirs of Beaumarchais                                         184


                             CHAPTER XXIII

    The _Mariage de Figaro_—Its Composition—Difficulties
      Encountered in Getting it Produced—It is Played at
      Grennevilliers—The First Representation—Its Success—
      _Institut des pauvres mères nourrices_—Beaumarchais
      at Saint Lazare                                               212


                             CHAPTER XXIV

    The Marine of Beaumarchais—Success of His Business
      Undertakings—His Wealth—Ringing Plea of Self-Justification
      in the Cause of America, Addressed to the Commune of Paris,
      1789—The Beautiful House Which He Built in Paris—His
      Liberality—His Friends—His Home Life—Madame de
      Beaumarchais—His Daughter, Eugénie                            233


                              CHAPTER XXV

    House of Beaumarchais Searched—The 10th of August—Letter
      to his Family in Havre—Letter of Eugénie to her
      Father—Commissioned to Buy Guns for the Government—Goes
      to Holland as Agent of _Comité de Salut Public_—Declared
      an Emigré—Confiscation of his Goods—Imprisonment of his
      Family—The Ninth Thermidor Comes to Save Them—Life During
      the Terror—Julie again in Evidence—Beaumarchais’s Name
      Erased from List of Emigrés—Returns to France                 253


                             CHAPTER XXVI

    Beaumarchais After his Return from Exile—Takes Up All his
      Business Activities—Marriage of Eugénie—Her Portrait Drawn
      by Julie—Beaumarchais’s Varied Interests—Correspondence with
      Bonaparte—Pleads for Lafayette Imprisoned—Death of
      Beaumarchais—Conclusion                                       273

   Bibliography                                                     291

   Index                                                            295


                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                            FACING PAGE

   P. A. Caron de Beaumarchais                             Frontispiece

   Charles de Beaumont                                               26

   Charles Gravier—Comte de Vergennes                                54

   Silas Deane                                                       78

   William Carmichaël                                               104

   Lafayette                                                        126

   General John Schuyler                                            140

   General Baron von Steuben                                        152

   Robert Morris                                                    166

   The Temple                                                       182

   Cæsar Augustus Rodney—Attorney General of the U. S.              200

   John Jay                                                         220

   D’Estaing                                                        232

   The Bastille                                                     240

   House of Beaumarchais                                            252

   Madame de Beaumarchais                                           270



                             BEAUMARCHAIS

                  _And the War of American Independence_



                               CHAPTER XV


_Figaro—“Feindre d’ignorer ce qu’on sait, de savoir tout ce qu’on
ignore; d’entendre ce qu’on ne comprend pas, de ne point ouïr ce qu’on
entend; surtout de pouvoir au delà de ses forces; avoir souvent pour
grand secret de cacher qu’il n’y en a point; s’enfermer pour tailler des
plumes, et paraître profond, quand on n’est, comme on dit, que vide et
creux; jouer bien ou mal un personage; répandre des espions et
pensionner des traîtres; amollir des cachets, intercepter des lettres,
et tâcher d’ennoblir la pauvreté des moyens par l’importance des objets;
voilà toute la politique ou je meure.”_

_Le Comte—“Eh! c’est l’intrigue que tu définis!”_

_Figaro—“La politique, l’intrigue, volontiers; mais, comme je les crois
un peu germaines, en fasse qui voudra!”_

                         _Le Mariage de Figaro, Act III, Scene V._


    Curious History of the Chevalier d’Eon—Secret Agent of Louis
      XV—The Chevalier Feigns to Be a Woman—Curiosity of London
      Aroused—Necessity for the French Government to Obtain Possession
      of State Papers in d’Eon’s Hands—Beaumarchais Accepts
      Mission—Obtains Possession of the Famous Chest.


It was the summer of 1775. The moment was approaching when the attention
of Europe would be directed towards the events transpiring on the other
side of the Atlantic, in that New World, of which the old was as yet
scarcely conscious. The stand for freedom, for individual rights, for
the liberty of expansion which was there made, was destined to rouse the
warmest sympathies amongst all classes, especially in France. The
enthusiasm which greeted the resistance of the colonies rapidly became a
national sentiment which the French government was unable to suppress or
even to keep within bounds. To direct this enthusiasm into a practical
channel that should lead to immediate and efficient support of the
insurged colonies whilst awaiting the active intervention of the
government, was to be primarily the work of one man, and that man was
Beaumarchais.

But in starting for London on the present occasion, he was unconscious
of the historic importance which this journey was destined to assume.
The mission with which he was charged was one of the most singular with
which any government ever seriously commissioned one of its agents.

There was living at this time in London the Chevalier d’Eon de Beaumont,
who was a former agent of the occult diplomacy of Louis XV, and who at
this time was an exile from his country, to which he had been forbidden
to return in consequence of the scandalous and disgraceful quarrel that
had occurred between him and the French Ambassador, the Comte de
Guerchy, years before. Although publicly disgraced, he retained the
secret confidence of the old King, who allowed him an annual income of
12,000 francs. The present government was willing to continue this
pension, but on condition that the chevalier give up the secret
correspondence of the late King, which remained in his possession, and
of which it was very important that the French government should obtain
control. It was to negotiate the remittance of this correspondence that
Beaumarchais was commissioned the summer of 1775. The oddity of the
character with which he had to deal, rather than the actual nature of
the mission, was what made the negotiation so difficult and the
proceedings so unusual.

Several years previous, about 1771, a rumor began to circulate in
England that the Chevalier in question was really a woman disguised.
Although one of the most belligerent of characters, who “smoked, drank
and swore like a German trooper,” it appears that “the rarity of his
blond beard and the smallness of his form (Gaillardet),” “a certain
feminine roundness of the face, joined to a voice equally feminine,
contributed to give credit to the fable (note of M. de Loménie, _sur le_
Chevalier d’Eon).” There were also certain facts in the life of the
chevalier which supported this theory; among others it was known that as
a very young man he had been sent by Louis XV in the guise of a woman to
the court of St. Petersburg, where he had succeeded in being admitted as
reader to the Empress Elizabeth.

As the Chevalier d’Eon was a widely known personage in English society,
the matter took on great proportions and became a subject of betting
according to the _manière anglaise_. D’Eon, who seems to have cared
primarily for one thing, namely, notoriety of whatever sort, secretly
encouraged the dispute, although he wrote at the same time to the Comte
de Broglie: “It is not my fault if the court of Russia during my sojourn
here, has assured the court of England that I am a woman.... It is not
my fault if the fury of betting upon all sorts of things is such a
national malady among the English that they often risk more than their
fortunes upon a single horse.... I have proved to them, and I will prove
it as often as they wish, that I am not only a man, but a captain of
dragoons, with his arms in his hands.” And yet he was able to keep the
world in a state of complete mystification as to his true sex, up to the
time of his death in 1810.

Voltaire says of him: “The whole adventure confounds me. I cannot
understand either d’Eon, or the ministers of his time, or the measures
of Louis XV, or those being made at present. I understand nothing of the
whole affair.” In his _Mémoires sur le Chevalier d’Eon de Beaumont_, M.
Gaillardet says: “The history of the Chevalier d’Eon was one of the most
singular and most controverted enigmas of the 18th century. That century
finished without its being known what was the veritable sex of that
mysterious being, who after being successively doctor of law, advocate
in the Parliament of Paris, censor of belles-lettres, secretary of
embassy at St. Petersburg, captain of dragoons, Chevalier de Saint
Louis, minister plenipotentiary to London, suddenly, at the age of 46
years announced himself to be a woman, assumed the costume of his new
rôle, and conserved it until the time of his death in 1810.”

As we shall presently see, and for reasons wholly justifiable, it is
Beaumarchais who works this transformation in the life of d’Eon. Nothing
in relation to his strange character is so passing strange as the fact
that the King and his minister, and above all that Beaumarchais himself,
the cleverest of men—should have been completely duped by the Chevalier
as to the matter of his sex. It even went so far as to be generally
believed that the _demoiselle_ d’Eon was seriously in love with
Beaumarchais, and the latter himself believed it. In the most skillful
way the chevalier endeavored to make use of this deceit to further his
own ends. Failing in this, and having made the fatal avowal and received
the King’s orders to assume the garb of a woman, the fury of d’Eon knew
no bounds. Powerless to wreak his vengeance in any other way, he
endeavored by calumny and abuse to thwart the career of the man upon
whom he had been able to impose only in the matter of his sex.
Beaumarchais readily excused all the insults cast at him, believing as
he did, that this is the manner of revenge of the strange creature, “his
amazon”—(as d’Eon is familiarly called in the correspondence between
himself and the minister Vergennes)—for finding that her love is not
requited.

But to return to the facts of the case: D’Eon, at the time of the death
of Louis XV was living in constant hope of being restored to favor and
allowed to return to France. His pension of 12,000 francs had proved all
too small for his support and he was heavily in debt. No sooner had the
young king, Louis XVI, mounted the throne than the Chevalier sent word
to Vergennes, minister of foreign affairs, announcing that he had in his
possession important letters which were of such a nature that should
they fall into the hands of the English, it might precipitate a war
between the two nations. An agent was therefore dispatched to enter into
negotiations. “Understanding,” says Gaillardet, “that if he did not
profit by this occasion, he would have little to expect from the new
reign, d’Eon resolved to put a high price on the papers in his
possession. He demanded: first, that he be solemnly justified of the
imputations directed against him by his enemies—especially the family of
the Comte de Guerchy; second, that all the sums, indemnities, advances,
etc., due him for the past 26 years, be paid, amounting in all to
318,477 livres, 16 sous.”

Unable to come to any reasonable terms, the negotiations were broken
off and the agent returned to France. He was replaced by another who was
equally unsuccessful, and for a time the matter was dropped.

In the meantime noise of the affair reached the English government, and
d’Eon soon had the satisfaction of receiving large offers from that
quarter if he would consent to give up the papers. The Chevalier,
whatever his faults, or the violence of his character, was not a
traitor; he had no intention of giving the papers in his possession to
the English at any price, but he was well satisfied that their value
should be thus enhanced.

In the meantime, his pension was suspended and finding himself without
funds, “he borrowed 5,000 pounds from his devoted friend and protector,
the Lord Ferrers, giving him as security a sealed chest, which, Ferrers
supposed, contained the famous correspondence. He took care, however,”
says Gaillardet, “to withdraw from that deposit precisely the personal
documents of the late King, which were the most important for the court
of France and for himself. These papers contained a plan for the
restitution of the Stuarts, a descent upon England, and other dreams,
constituting what d’Eon called _le grand projet_ of Louis XV.”

At this juncture Beaumarchais appeared on the scene. “To interest the
latter in his cause, and give him a mark of confidence (Gaillardet)
d’Eon avows with tears that he is a woman, and this avowal was made with
so much art that Beaumarchais did not conceive the least doubt.”

D’Eon recounted the history of the papers in his possession, and the
offers which he had resisted. Charmed to oblige a woman so interesting
by her sorrows, her courage, her _esprit_, Beaumarchais addressed at
once touching letters to the King in favor of his new friend. “When one
thinks,” he writes, “that this creature, so much persecuted, belongs to
a sex to which one forgives everything, the heart is touched with a
sweet compassion.” “I do assure you, Sire,” he writes elsewhere, “that
in taking this astonishing creature with dexterity and gentleness,
although she is embittered by twelve years of misfortune, she can yet be
brought to enter under the yoke, and to give up all the papers of the
late King on reasonable conditions.”

As to the motives which could have induced le chevalier d’Eon to avow
himself a woman, his biographer, already quoted, gives the following
explanation:

“His military and diplomatic career was about finished; disgraced, he
would disappear from the scene of the world and fall into obscurity. But
precisely shadow and silence were a horror to him. If there was a
mystery in his existence, if they learned that he was a woman, he would
become the hero of the day and of the century; his services would then
appear extraordinary. This metamorphosis would attract to him the
attention of Europe, and enable him more easily to obtain satisfaction
from the French government, who would no longer refuse a woman the price
of blood shed and services rendered.”

Both Gaillardet and Loménie, after a careful examination of all the
correspondence in relation to the affair between the Chevalier d’Eon and
Beaumarchais, assure us that not a line exists which does not prove that
the latter was completely deceived as to the matter of the sex of the
Chevalier.

Lintilhac, however, thinks that he has found proofs to the contrary in a
letter which begins, “Ma pauvre Chevalière, or whatever it pleases you
to be with me....” London, Dec. 31, 1775. Gudin, in his life of
Beaumarchais, says, “It was at a dinner of the Lord Mayor Wilkes that I
encountered d’Eon for the first time. Struck to see the cross of St.
Louis shining on his breast, I asked Mlle. Wilkes who that chevalier
was; she named him to me. ‘He has,’ I said, ‘the voice of a woman.’ It
is probably from that fact that the talk has all come. At that time I
knew nothing more about him; I was still ignorant of his relations with
Beaumarchais. I soon learned them from herself. She avowed to me with
tears (it appears to have been the manner of d’Eon—note of Loménie) that
she was a woman, and showed me her scars, remains of wounds which she
had received, when, her horse killed under her, a squadron of cavalry
passed over her body and left her dying on the plain.”

“No one,” says Loménie, “could be more naïvely mystified than is Gudin.
In the first period of the negotiation, d’Eon is full of attentions for
Beaumarchais; he calls him his ‘guardian angel’ and sends him his
complete works in fourteen volumes; for this curious being, this
dragoon, woman and diplomat, was at the same time a most fruitful
scribbler of paper. He has characterised himself very well in the
following letter: ‘If you wish to know me, Monsieur the Duke, I will
tell you frankly that I am only good to think, imagine, question,
reflect, compare, read, write, to run from the rising to the setting
sun, from the south to the north, and to fight on the plain or in the
mountains ... or I will use up all the revenues of France in a year, and
after that give you an excellent treatise on economy. If you wish to
have the proof, see all I have written in my history of finance, upon
the distribution of public taxes.’”

This, then, was the strange being with whom Beaumarchais had to deal. On
the 21st of June, 1775, he received from Vergennes the following letter,
which shows in the best possible light the credit which the secret agent
of the government had already acquired. He wrote:

   “I have under my eyes, Monsieur, the report which you have given
   M. de Sartine of our conversation, touching M. d’Eon; it is of
   the greatest exactitude; I have taken in consequence the orders
   of the King. His Majesty authorizes you to assure to M. d’Eon the
   regular payment of the pension of 12,000 francs.... The article
   of the payment of his debts is more difficult; the pretensions of
   d’Eon are very high in that respect; they must be considerably
   reduced if we are to come to any arrangement.... M. d’Eon has a
   violent character, but I do him the justice to believe that his
   soul is honest, and that he is incapable of treason.... It is
   impossible that M. d’Eon takes leave of the English King; the
   revelation of his sex does not permit it; it would be ridiculous
   for both courts.... You are wise and prudent, you know mankind,
   and I have no doubt but that you will be able to arrange the
   affair with d’Eon, if it can be done. Should the enterprise fail
   in your hands, we shall be forced to consider that it cannot
   succeed and resolve to accept whatever may come from it.... I am
   very sensible, Monsieur, of the praises which you have been so
   good as to give me in your letter to M. de Sartine. I aspire to
   merit them, and accept them as a gage of your esteem, which will
   always be flattering to me. Count, I beg you, upon my own, and
   upon the sentiments with which I have the honor to be very
   sincerely, Monsieur, etc.

                                                    “De Vergennes.
   “A Versailles, June 21st, 1775.”

July 14, 1775, Beaumarchais wrote to M. de Vergennes announcing that he
had obtained possession of the keys of the famous chest, which he had
sealed with his own seal and which was deposited in a safe place.
“Whatever happens, M. le Comte, I believe that I have at least cut off
one head of the English hydra ... the king and you may be quite certain
that everything will rest in _statu quo_ in England, and that no one
can abuse us from now to the end of the negotiation which I believe
about finished.” But in the meantime, while undertaking the settlement
of the affair with d’Eon, the active mind of Beaumarchais had become
enflamed with an ardent zeal for the cause of liberty, as it was being
then defended on the other side of the Atlantic. “One of the first,”
says Gaillardet, “he had embraced the cause of the Americans, had
espoused it with a sort of love that partook of idolatry.... He followed
every phase with an interest which nothing discouraged, not ceasing to
hope in the midst of reverses, triumphing and clapping his hands at
every victory.... He excused their faults, exalted their virtues, plead
for them with all the faculties of his _esprit_ and of his soul, before
those whom he wished to interest in their fate.”

Every voyage back to Paris, which the interests of his mission
necessitated, every letter which it occasioned, was made to subserve
itself to this one end which transcended all others; namely, to rouse
the young King from that state of indecision and indifference to which
he was born, and where he seemed likely to remain.

In the next chapter this subject will be taken up in all its detail; for
the present it is necessary only to remind the reader that the matter of
which we are now treating is all the while secondary in the mind of
Beaumarchais. It is, however, of vital importance in that, at the
beginning, it offers the avenue of approach to the King and his
ministers which might otherwise have been wanting. Through the masterly
way in which he settled the affair with d’Eon, the confidence of the
King and of his minister was secured. Before the affair was terminated,
an open channel had been established which permitted the whole current
of the genius of Beaumarchais to flow direct to its goal.

It will be remembered that the Chevalier d’Eon had borrowed five
thousand pounds of his friend the English Admiral, Lord Ferrers, and had
left him as security the chest containing the famous correspondence of
the late King. Before it could be delivered to Beaumarchais there were
many difficult questions to settle, the chief one being the Chevalier’s
return to France, owing to the resentment still felt by the family of
the Comte de Guerchy towards the Chevalier, and the latter’s well known
violence of temper. The King and M. de Vergennes demanded absolute
oblivion of the past and a guarantee that no further scandals should
arise. This was difficult to assure, owing to the fiery nature of the
Chevalier. Already, as we have seen, the latter had avowed “with tears”
that he was a woman.

August 7th, 1775, M. de Vergennes wrote to the King, “If your Majesty
deigns to approve the propositions of the Sieur de Beaumarchais to
withdraw from the hands of the Sieur d’Eon the papers which it would be
dangerous to leave there, I will authorize him to terminate the affair.
_If M. d’Eon wishes to take the costume of his sex_, there will be no
objection to allowing him to return to France, but under any other form
he should not even desire it.”

In a letter to Beaumarchais, the 26th of the same month, M. de Vergennes
wrote: “Whatever desire I may have to see, to know, and to hear M.
d’Eon, I cannot hide from you a serious uneasiness which haunts me. His
enemies watch, and will not pardon easily all that he has said of
them.... If M. d’Eon would change his costume everything would be
said.... You will make of this observation the use which you shall judge
suitable.”

The idea appeared not only good to Beaumarchais, but to offer, perhaps,
the only solution to the difficulty. He therefore made this the
condition of settlement of the debts of d’Eon, the continuation of his
pension, as well as of his being allowed to return to France. The same
motives which had actuated the Chevalier to declare himself a woman
worked now in favor of what Beaumarchais, endowed with full power in his
regard, demanded of him. Realizing, as M. de Vergennes had done, that if
the matter were not now adjusted, it would never be again taken up;
realizing too that his notoriety would be increased tenfold by this
metamorphosis, he decided to submit to what was imposed upon him.

Early in October, Beaumarchais wrote to M. de Vergennes: “Written
promises to be good are not sufficient to arrest a head which enflames
itself always at the simple name of Guerchy; the positive declaration of
his sex and the engagement to live hereafter in the costume of a woman
is the only barrier which can prevent scandal and misfortunes. I have
required this and have obtained it.”

As a matter of fact, on the 5th of October, the Chevalier signed the
famous contract, in which he promised to deliver the entire
correspondence of the late King, declared himself a woman and engaged to
“retake and wear the costume of that sex to the time of his death;” and
he added with his own hand, “which I have already worn on divers
occasions known to his Majesty.” The agent of the French Government on
his side agreed to deliver a contract or pension of 12,000 francs, as
well as “more considerable sums which shall be remitted for the
acquittal of the debts of the Chevalier in England.” “Each of the
contractants,” said Loménie, “reserved thus a back door; if the more
considerable sums did not seem considerable enough, the Chevalier
intended to keep a portion of the papers, so as to obtain still more
funds. Beaumarchais, on his side, had no intention of paying all the
debts which it should please the Chevalier to declare, and had demanded
of the King the faculty to _batailler_—to employ his own
expression—with the demoiselle d’Eon, from 100,000 to 150,000 francs,
reserving the right to give him the money in fractional parts, and to
extend or retract the sum according to the confidence which that cunning
personage should inspire.”

After the contract was signed, Beaumarchais still holding the money in
reserve, demanded the papers of which it was questioned. The chest was
produced. Suddenly realizing, however, that he had no authority to open
the chest and to examine the contents, and having but small confidence
in the veracity of the chevalier, he hastened back to Versailles,
obtained the desired permission, and reappeared in London with his new
commission. On opening the chest he found indeed that papers of but
small importance were contained therein. D’Eon, blushing, confessed that
the letters of which the French government desired to obtain possession
were hidden under the floor of his room in London.

“She conducted me to her room,” wrote Beaumarchais, “and drew from under
the floor five boxes, well sealed and marked, ‘Secret Papers to remit to
the King alone’, which she assured me contained all the secret
correspondence, and the entire mass of the papers which she had in her
possession. I began by making an inventory, and marking them all so that
none could be withdrawn; but, better to assure myself that the entire
sequence was there contained, I rapidly ran over them, while she made
the inventory.”

This want of honor in the Chevalier, whose security left with the Lord
Ferrers had been proved of comparatively little value, dispensed
Beaumarchais, so he considered, from the necessity of acquitting the
full debt contracted by d’Eon. This was afterwards most bitterly
reproached to him by the Chevalier. In a letter to Lord Ferrers,
Beaumarchais wrote: “I have lived too long and know mankind too well to
count upon the gratitude of anyone, or to feel the least annoyance when
I see those fail whom I have the most obliged.” (From a letter dated
Jan. 8, 1776, to Lord Ferrers,—Gaillardet.)

The note of 13,933 pounds sterling first addressed to M. de Vergennes
had since been increased by 8,223 pounds sterling, of which d’Eon
demanded the payment. Beaumarchais, however, true to the interest of the
King and his minister, to their great satisfaction, terminated the
transaction for a little less than 5,000 pounds sterling. From the
determined refusal of Beaumarchais to increase the sum arose the wild
fury of d’Eon, who saw his last hope escape him. His invectives against
Beaumarchais, his abuse, all had their origin here.

“I assured this demoiselle,” wrote Beaumarchais to Vergennes, “that if
she was prudent, modest and silent, and if she conducted herself well, I
would render so good an account of her to the minister of the King, and
even to His Majesty, that I hoped to obtain for her new advantages. I
did this the more willingly because I had still in my possession nearly
41,000 francs, from which I expected to recompense every act of
submission and of sobriety on her part, by acts of generosity approved
successively by the King and by you, Monsieur le Comte, but only as
favors, and not as acquittals. It was in this way that I hoped still to
dominate and bring into subjection this fiery and deceitful creature.”

Early in December, Beaumarchais appeared in Versailles with his famous
chest, containing at last the entire mass of papers, the negotiation of
which had occupied the minister of Louis XVI since the time of the
latter’s accession to the throne. Overjoyed at the successful
termination of the affair, the King and his minister testified their
satisfaction with warmth.

[Illustration: CHARLES DE BEAUMONT dit Mademoiselle le Chevalier D’Eon
1728-1810]

A very honorable discharge was given their agent with a certificate
which terminated thus:

   “I declare that the King has been very well satisfied with the
   zeal which he has shown on this occasion, as well as with the
   intelligence and dexterity with which he has acquitted himself of
   the commission which his Majesty has confided to him. The King
   has therefore ordered me to deliver the present attestation to
   serve him at all times and in all places where it may be
   necessary.

   “Made at Versailles, the 18th of December, 1775.

   “Signed: Gravier de Vergennes.”

The matter of the papers was indeed settled; they were safe in the hands
of the government, and all uneasiness in regard to them was at an end;
not so Beaumarchais with his _amazone intéressante_. Furious to find
that his exorbitant demands upon the French government had miscarried,
d’Eon thought only of wreaking his vengeance upon Beaumarchais. After
exhausting himself with very “masculine abuse” upon his “austere friend”
(Loménie), he suddenly, with the same art with which he had avowed
himself a woman, set about convincing Beaumarchais that he was in love
with him, uttering bitter reproaches for the cruelty, hardness and
injustice with which he had treated an unhappy woman, who in a moment of
weakness had revealed herself to him. “Why,” cried this disguised
dragoon, “why did I not remember that men are good for nothing upon this
earth but to deceive the credulity of women, young and old?... I still
thought that I was only rendering justice to your merits, admiring your
talents, your generosity; I loved you already no doubt; but this
situation was still so new for me that I was very far from realizing
that love could be born in the midst of trouble and sorrow.”

In a note, M. de Loménie remarked that what there was specially
_piquant_ in this correspondence of d’Eon and Beaumarchais is that the
former, while posing as a woman, “often gives an enigmatic turn to his
phrases, as though he wished to establish for the day when the fraud
would be unveiled, that he had been able to dupe a man as clever as the
author of the _Barbier de Séville_, and that he duped him in mocking at
him to his very face, without being suspected. Beaumarchais, for his
part, amused himself at the expense of that _vieille Dragonne_ in love,
and confirmed himself more and more in the error as d’Eon more adroitly
simulated the anger of an offended old maid.”

Beaumarchais wrote to M. de Vergennes: “Everyone tells me that this
crazy woman is crazy over me. She thinks that I undervalue her, and
women never forgive similar offenses. I am very far from doing so; but
who could ever have imagined that to serve the King well in this affair,
I should have been forced to become gallant cavalier to a _capitaine de
dragons_? The adventure appears to me so ridiculous that I have all the
trouble in the world to regain my seriousness so as suitably to finish
this memoir.”

If d’Eon had the satisfaction of duping Beaumarchais in a certain sense,
he failed utterly in inducing him to loosen the strings of the royal
purse which he carried, and without which nothing was accomplished.
Finding that Beaumarchais was inexorable on this point, all the pent-up
fury of the chevalier blazed forth. He began at once addressing
interminable memoirs to the minister Vergennes, full of accusations
against his agent, couched in the coarsest and most violent language,
attributing to the latter all the epithets that fall so glibly from his
pen, “the insolence of a watchmaker’s boy, who by chance had discovered
perpetual motion.”

“Beaumarchais,” said Loménie, “received these broadsides of abuse with
the calm of a perfect gentleman: ‘She is a woman,’ he wrote to M. de
Vergennes, ‘and a woman so frightfully surrounded that I pardon her
with all my heart; she is a woman—that word says everything.’”

But exactly this was what the chevalier did not want; he did not want to
be pardoned by Beaumarchais; he wanted a quarrel with him, and to have
his accusations credited by the minister. He succeeded in neither of his
objects, although his resentment and his desire for revenge augmented
rather than diminished with time. Returned to France, he openly accused
Beaumarchais of having retained for himself money that was destined for
him. His abuse was so violent that in self-defense the accused man
appealed for justification to the minister, and received the following
letter, which bears date of January 10th, 1778:

   “I have received, Monsieur, your letter of the 3rd of this month,
   and I have not been able to see without surprise that the
   demoiselle d’Eon imputes to you having appropriated to yourself
   to her prejudice the funds which she supposes to have been
   destined for her. I have difficulty in believing, Monsieur, that
   this demoiselle has been guilty of an accusation so calumnious;
   but if she has done so, you should not have the slightest
   disquietude or be in the least affected; you have the gage and
   the guarantee of your innocence in the account which you have
   given of your management of the affair, in the most approved
   form, founded upon the most authentic titles, and in the
   discharge which I have given you of the approval of the King. Far
   from the possibility of your disinterestedness being suspected, I
   have not forgotten, Monsieur, that you made no account of your
   personal expenses, and that you never allowed me to perceive any
   other interest than to facilitate to the demoiselle d’Eon the
   means of returning to her native land.

   “I am very perfectly, Monsieur, your very humble and very
   obedient servitor,

                                                   “De Vergennes.”

Beaumarchais was at this time far too deeply engaged in his gigantic
mercantile operations to be seriously disturbed by the accusations of
the Chevalier d’Eon. Far greater difficulties were to overwhelm him, and
still more signal ingratitude was to be his portion. He will accept that
too, in very much the same spirit in which he has accepted all the rest.



                               CHAPTER XVI


“_Vor der Ankunft Dean’s und Franklin’s, Beaumarchais war ohne Frage,
der bestunterrichtete Kenner Englands und der Vereinigten Staaten auf
dem continent._”

                       _Bettelheim_, “_Beaumarchais: Eine Biographie._”


    Beaumarchais’s Earliest Activities in the Cause of American
      Independence—First Steps of the Government of
      France—Bonvouloir—Discord Among Parties in England—Beaumarchais’s
      Memoirs to the King—Meets Arthur Lee—Lee’s Letter to
      Congress—King Still Undecided—Curious Letter of Beaumarchais,
      with Replies Traced in the Handwriting of the King.


No record of the actual awakening of Beaumarchais’s interest in the War
of American Independence has ever been brought to light, but certain it
is that for nearly a year before the date of any document contained in
the French Archives, Beaumarchais was the “real, though secret, agent of
the Minister Vergennes in London.”

The earliest written allusion to any definite commission from the
government in regard to this matter is found in the letter of
Beaumarchais to Vergennes, written July 14, 1775, a part of which,
relating to the Chevalier d’Eon, is given in the previous chapter. After
announcing exultantly the possession of the keys to the famous chest of
which it had just been questioned, he continued: “I would return at once
to give the details of what I have accomplished if I were only charged
with one object; but I am charged with four, and find myself obliged to
leave for Flanders with milord Ferrers and in his vessel. It would not
be just that the _King and M. de Sartine_ were less content than the
_King and M. de Vergennes_....

“In politics, it is not sufficient to work, one must succeed....

“I shall take no repose until I have informed you in regard to the
veritable state of things in England, a knowledge of which becomes more
important from day to day. As soon as I shall be as tranquil over the
objects of M. de Sartine as I am now over ‘_notre amazone_’ (the
Chevalier d’Eon) I shall return to Versailles....

“I profit by the first sure occasion of dropping a letter into the post
at Calais, to tell you, without its being known in London, that I have
just put into the hands of the King, the papers and the creature that
they have wished to use against him at any price.

“I say, ‘without its being discovered in London,’ because it is a great
question to find out what my object is, but what can be gotten from a
man who neither speaks nor writes?

“I am with the most respectful devotion, M. de Comte ... etc....
Beaumarchais” (letter given by Gaillardet in his _Mémoires sur le
Chevalier d’Eon_).

Beaumarchais’s mission to Flanders is alluded to in another place by
Gaillardet, without, however, giving any authority for the statement
which he made. He said, “The court of Louis XVI still hesitated to
follow Beaumarchais in the adventurous career whither he was drawing it,
so to speak, with a tow-line, ... although Holland and Spain were
already engaged by his efforts to embrace the cause of France and the
United States against England.”

Doniol in his _Histoire de la Participation de la France dans_
_l’Etablissement des Etats-Unis_, said: “Franklin before returning to
America had treated with armorers and merchants of England, Holland and
France for the furnishing and transmitting of munitions of war to the
colonies. These operations were centralized in London, and Beaumarchais
did not remain ignorant of them.... He knew, heard, and prepared many
things.”

Although “no special memoir, no private archive has up to the present
revealed the intimate details (Doniol, II, 31),” it seems certain that
the plans of Beaumarchais centered in the dispatching of funds, or if
possible, of ammunitions of war, to the insurged colonies, and that the
head of these operations was to be in the Low Countries. To further
these projects, the most profound secrecy was necessary, not only to
ensure their success, but to prevent the government from being
compromised. This fact accounts sufficiently for the almost total lack
of documents relative to these negotiations. What facilitated them was
the profound discord which existed at this time in England itself, and
especially the diversity of opinion in relation to the uprising among
the colonists. No one realized the deep significance of this fact for
the interest of France and of America better than Beaumarchais, and no
one knew so well how to turn it to the advantage of both these
countries. It goes without saying that had England been united in her
desire to crush America and united in her attempts to prevent foreign
interference, the history of the war would have been very different from
what it was.

As a matter of fact in England “a party, small indeed in numbers, but
powerful from its traditions, its connections, and its abilities, had
identified itself completely with the cause of the insurgents, opposed
and embarrassed the Government in every effort to augment its forces and
to subsidize allies, openly rejoiced in the victories of the Americans,
and exerted all its eloquence to justify and encourage them.” (Lecky,
III, 545.)

“This glorious spirit of Whiggism,” said Chatham in a speech delivered
in January, 1775, “animates three millions in America, who prefer
poverty with liberty, to gilded chains and sordid affluence, who will
die in defence of their rights as freemen.... All attempts to impose
servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty
continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal. We shall be forced
ultimately to retreat. Let us retreat while we can, not when we must.”

From the beginning, the members of the Opposition had emphasized the
danger to Great Britain that would arise from a prolonged struggle with
the colonies, foreseeing that they later would be forced into an
alliance with France. (Walpole’s last Journal, 11-182.)

At this time the Americans had no sympathy for the French and no desire
to incur any debt of gratitude towards them. “France had hitherto been
regarded in America, even more than in England, as a natural enemy. Her
expulsion from America had been for generations one of the first objects
of American patriots, and if she again mixed in American affairs it was
naturally thought that she would seek to regain the province she had
lost.” (Lecky, 111, 453.) To ask aid of her was at first an intolerable
thought to the greater number among the Revolutionary party—necessity
alone finally drove them to the step. Even then, it was with no
intention of accepting the help with gratitude, as subsequent events
proved: It was a means to an end, and the less said about it, the sooner
it was obliterated or forgotten, the better for all concerned.

The attitude of France towards America was of a totally different
nature. There was never any feeling of animosity against Americans
engendered by those wars which finally terminated so disastrously for
the French in the peace of 1763. As these wars had all been of European
origin, the resentment of the French fell upon the English alone. The
very name America had a wild, sweet charm for every Frenchman’s ear. For
him the red man was no savage foe, but a friend and brother. Side by
side they penetrated together the dense fastnesses of the primeval
forests, ascended the rivers, climbed the mountains, shot the cataracts;
at night they lay down under the same tent, shared the same meals and
smoked together the pipe of peace. The dread which kept the English
settlers hovering near the coast was unknown to the French. Thus they
were able to explore and claim for the great Sun-King the vast central
region, part of which bears his name to the present day. Not only was
the thought of these great possessions alluring to adventurers and
traders; philosophers and thinkers as well looked into the future and
saw the part that they were to play in the development of the race. In
1750 Turgot had uttered the following words, “Vast regions of America!
Equality keeps them from both luxury and want, and preserves to them
purity and simplicity with freedom. Europe herself will find there the
perfection of her political societies, and the surest support of her
well-being.” But since 1763 the fruit of French explorations on the
continent of America had been in the hands of the English; a few sugar
islands among the West Indies alone remained to them. Their foot-hold in
America was gone, but not their love for America. More than this a
generosity of nature, joined to a tolerance of, and admiration for
qualities not of the same type as their own, has always been a marked
characteristic of the French. It was therefore in the very nature of
things that the nation should have been roused to enthusiasm by the
news of the heroic resistance of the colonies, especially when it is
taken into consideration that every blow dealt by the defenders of
liberty, was aimed directly at the “triumphant political rival of
France.”

But the people of the nation were not its government, and at the time of
the uprising in America, France was ruled by a king, weak indeed in
character yet absolute in power, in whose divine right to rule, his
ministers as well as himself, believed. It was not, therefore, to be
expected that the French government would look with favor upon the
rebellious subjects of any nation, whether friend or foe. It was in the
nature of things that they should hesitate before encouraging measures
that were intended to aid revolt. As late as March 5, 1775, M. de
Vergennes had written to the French ambassador in London bidding him
quiet the fears of the English government in regard to the probable
interference of France. “The maintenance of peace with England,” he
wrote, “is our unique object.”

The French government, however, could not wholly resist the tide of
public sentiment or remain altogether unmoved by considerations of
interest. It was thought well to send some prudent and sagacious agent
to the New World to try the public temper and to see if the interference
of France actually was desired. A man admirably fitted for the task
recently had arrived in London from the French West Indies, who in
returning, had passed through the colonies, and who knew them well,
leaving many acquaintances there. This man was Bonvouloir. The 7th of
August, 1775, M. de Vergennes wrote to the French Ambassador, “The King
very much approves the mission of Bonvouloir.” (Bancroft—IV—360) “His
instructions,” he wrote to the ambassador a little later, “should be
verbal and confined to the two most essential objects: the one to make
a faithful report to you of the events and of the prevailing disposition
of the public mind; the other to secure the Americans against jealousy
of us. Canada is for them _le point jaloux_: they must be made to
understand that we do not think of it in the least.” (Quoted from J.
Durand’s _New Materials for the History of the American Revolution_,
1889, p. 1-16, Bonvouloir.)

On the 8th of September he set sail. The result of his mission, although
it promised nothing to the colonies, was to them at least an
encouragement. Already in the Summer of 1775 a motion had been made in
Congress and strongly supported by John Adams, to send an ambassador to
France. “But Congress still shrank from so formidable a step, though it
agreed, after long debates and hesitation, to form a secret committee to
correspond with friends in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of
the world.” (Adams’s Life, I, 200-202.) It was with this secret
committee, of which the celebrated Dr. Franklin was a prominent member,
that Bonvouloir came in touch.

Although the French government had taken this one preliminary step, she
remained to all appearances as indifferent to the cause of the colonists
as she was to the condition of affairs in England. Beaumarchais began
deluging her with such volumes of information on both these subjects,
that almost in spite of herself, her own interest was aroused. “The
energy of a believer is a force to which undecided convictions yield—and
this was the case with the King in regard to the schemes of
Beaumarchais.” (Gaillardet.)

But before entering into a consideration of those schemes, it would be
well to glance at the actual condition of England herself. We already
have spoken of the division existing in her midst, but the greatest
difficulty which the English government had to encounter was the one
that she has had to face in 1914 when she found herself suddenly
plunged into war with another country, namely that of raising a
formidable army. Then as now, the hatred of conscription was so deep
rooted in the English people that even the government of Lord North did
not dare to resort to it. “To raise the required troops on short notice
was very difficult.... The land tax was raised to four shillings in the
pound. New duties were imposed; new bounties were offered. Recruiting
agents traversed the country.... Recruits, however, came very slowly.
There was no enthusiasm for a war with English settlers. No measure
short of conscription could raise at once the necessary army in England
and to propose conscription would be fatal to any government.” (Lecky,
III, 455.)

In her dilemma, England found herself reduced to the infamous measure of
hiring German soldiers to fight for her against her own subjects. The
shameful conduct of the Landgrave of Hesse, the Duke of Brunswick and
the Prince of Waldeck, has been immortalized by Germany’s great poet,
Schiller, in his _Kabale und Liebe_; “In England they excited only
contempt and indignation.” (Lecky) Moreover, the disorders arising from
the press-gang service ran high, while “after three expulsions, the
famous demagogue Wilkes” still retained his seat in Parliament, and in
1774 had been made Lord-Mayor of London. At a public dinner he had been
heard to exclaim insolently, “For a long time the King of England has
done me the honor of hating me. On my side, I have always rendered him
the justice of despising him; the time has come to decide which has the
better judged the other, and to which side the wind will make the heads
fall.” This divided condition among the people themselves justified the
assertion of Beaumarchais, made in his memoir to the King: “Open war in
America is less pernicious to England than the intestine war which
seems likely to break out before long in London; the bitterness between
the parties has risen to the highest excesses since the proclamation of
the King, declaring the Americans rebels.” Beaumarchais in this was only
voicing the general opinion. But “The English People,” says Loménie,
“with that national sentiment and good sense which often has
characterized them in great crises, baffled these previsions. The defeat
of the English troops weakened the opposition more than the ministry.
Everything became subordinate to the necessity of combatting with
energy; and the irritation, instead of augmenting, cooled down
considerably.”

As the war progressed, party-feeling disappeared while the actual entry
of France into the struggle developed a unity of purpose among the
English which would have been very disastrous to the new nation, had it
existed in the beginning.

The summer of 1775 was passed by Beaumarchais, ostensibly in
negotiations with the chevalier d’Eon, in reality with plans and
arrangements made with other European powers to join France in the
secret support of the colonies. No word written or spoken of these
negotiations escaped him, so that we can judge of their nature only from
the results. “The middle of September,” says Doniol (p. 134, I) “having
arranged his combinations, he returned to Versailles to emphasize the
necessity of France’s conducting herself as the future ally of the
Americans, that is, to come to an understanding with them in regard to
the aid necessary for the development of their revolt.”

M. de Vergennes seems to have been his first confidant. It was decided
to act on the mind of the King. A memoir was to be drawn up and given to
M. de Sartine who should believe himself the unique confidant. This plan
was disclosed in the following letter which Beaumarchais wrote to
Vergennes:

                                                   “Sept. 22, 1775
   “Pour vous seul;

   “M. le comte: M. de Sartine gave me back the paper yesterday, but
   said nothing to me of the affair. Now in relation to the secret
   which I let him think I was guarding from you, relative to my
   memoir to the King, I thought it better that I wrote to you an
   ostensible letter which you could carry or send to His Majesty
   and if you were not charged by him with a reply, at least I
   should receive one from your bounty to console me for having
   taken useless pains. Send, I beg you, a blank passport, if you
   think I should await the orders of the King in London, in case he
   has not the time now, to decide the matter well. Of all this,
   please be kind enough to inform me. Everything being understood
   thus between us, it will be to your advantage to write to me so
   obscurely that no one but myself can divine the object of your
   letter, if you should send it to me by way of the ambassador.”
   ...

   The “ostensible” letter, which was written at the same time for
   the purpose of making an impression upon the King, was sent to
   the latter the next day by Vergennes with the following note:

   “I see, Sire, by the letter of the Sieur de Beaumarchais which I
   have the honor to join to this, that he himself already has had
   that of reporting to Your Majesty the notions he collected in
   London, and what profit he thinks can be drawn from them.” ...
   After asking for the King’s orders, he continued, “I requested M.
   de Beaumarchais, who was to leave to-night for London, to defer
   starting until to-morrow at noon....

                                                    “De Vergennes.
   “A Versailles, le 23 Septembre 1775.”
   (Quoted from Doniol I, 133.)

The “ostensible” letter is addressed to Vergennes but is really a second
appeal to the King. In it Beaumarchais dared to state forcefully the
embarrassment into which the King’s silence plunged him. He says:

   “Monsieur le Comte,

   “When zeal is indiscreet, it should be reprimanded; when it is
   agreeable, it should be encouraged; but all the sagacity in the
   world, would not enable him to whom nothing is replied, to divine
   what conduct it is expected he should maintain.

   “I sent yesterday to the King through M. de Sartine, a short
   memoir which is the resumé of the long conference which you
   accorded me the day before; it is the exact state of men and
   things in England; it is terminated by the offer which I made you
   to suppress for the time necessary for our preparations for war,
   everything which by its noise, or its silence could hasten or
   retard the moment. There must have been question of all this in
   the council yesterday, and this morning you have sent me no word.
   The most mortal thing to affairs of any kind is uncertainty or
   loss of time.

   “Should I await your reply or must I leave without having
   received any? Have I done well or ill to penetrate the sentiments
   of those minds whose dispositions are becoming so important for
   us? Shall I allow in the future these confidences to come to
   nothing and repel them instead of welcoming them—these overtures
   which should have a direct influence upon the actual resolution?
   In a word, am I an agent useful to his country, or only a
   traveller deaf and dumb? I ask no new commission. I have too
   serious work for my own personal affairs to finish in France for
   that, but I would have felt that I had failed in my duty to the
   King, to you, to my country, if I allowed all the good I might
   bring about and all the evil which I might prevent to remain
   unknown.

   “I wait your reply to this letter before starting. If you have no
   answer to make me, I shall regard this voyage as blank and nul;
   and without regretting my pains, I will return instantly to
   terminate in four days what remains to do with d’Eon and come
   back without seeing anyone; they will indeed be very much
   astonished, but another can do better perhaps; I wish it with my
   whole heart.”

The memoir which had been sent to the King by way of M. de Sartine, the
21st September, 1775, shows in its first sentence that another memoir
had preceded it. Beaumarchais wrote:

                                                          “Au Roi:

   “Sire,

   “In the firm confidence which I hold, that these extracts which I
   address to Your Majesty are for you alone, I will continue, Sire,
   to present to you the truth in all points known to me, which seem
   to me to be of interest to your service, without having regard to
   the interests of anyone else whomsoever. I left London under
   pretext of going to the country and have come running from London
   to Paris, to confer with MM. de Vergennes and de Sartine upon
   objects too important and too delicate to be confided to the care
   of any courier.

   “Sire, England is in such a crisis, such a disorder within and
   without, that she would touch almost upon her ruin if her rivals
   were in a state seriously to occupy themselves with her
   condition. Here is the faithful exposition of the situation of
   the English in America; I hold these details from an inhabitant
   of Philadelphia arrived from the colonies, after a conference
   with the English ministers, whom his recital has thrown into the
   greatest trouble and petrified with fear. The Americans, resolved
   to suffer everything rather than yield, and full of that
   enthusiasm of liberty which has often rendered the little nation
   of Corsica so redoubtable to the Genoese, have thirty-eight
   thousand men, effectively armed and determined, under the walls
   of Boston; they have reduced the English army to the necessity of
   dying of hunger in that city, or of going elsewhere to find
   winter quarters, something which it will do immediately. Nearly
   eight thousand men well armed and equally determined, defend the
   rest of the country without a single cultivator having been taken
   from the land, or a workman from the manufactories. Every one who
   was employed in the fisheries, which the English have destroyed,
   has become a soldier and wishes to revenge the ruin of his family
   and the liberty of his country; all who followed maritime
   commerce, which the English have stopped, have joined the
   fishermen to make war upon their common persecutors; all those
   working in the ports have served to augment this army of furious
   men, whose every action is animated by vengeance and rage.

   “I say, Sire, that such a nation must be invincible, especially
   having behind her sufficient country for a retreat, even if the
   English were to become masters of the coast, which is far from
   being said. All sensible people are convinced in England that the
   English colonies are lost for the metropolis, and that is also my
   opinion.”

   Then follows an account of the discord prevailing within the
   country itself, as well as an account of the secret negotiations
   being carried on by members with Spain and Portugal. He concluded
   thus:

   “Résumé. America escapes from the English in spite of their
   efforts; the war is more vividly illuminated in London than in
   Boston.... Our ministry, uninformed and stagnant, remains passive
   while events are occurring which touch us most closely....

   “A superior and vigilant man would be indispensable in London
   to-day....

   “Here, Sire, are the motives of my trip to France, whatever use
   Your Majesty may make of this memoir I count upon the virtue, the
   goodness of my Master, trusting that he will not allow these
   proofs of my zeal to turn against me, in confiding them to
   anyone, which would only augment the number of my enemies. They
   will, however, never hinder me from serving you so long as I am
   certain of the protection of Your Majesty.

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”

Of the secret deliberations of the council and the resolutions arrived
at we can judge only from the letter of Beaumarchais addressed to
Vergennes the night of the 23rd of September. The King had read the
“ostensible” letter, and as Beaumarchais hoped, had been more stirred by
it. He had conferred with his minister and had given his orders.
Vergennes hastened to communicate them to Beaumarchais who left the same
night for London. Later he wrote:


                               “Paris the 23rd of September, 1775.
   “Monsieur le Comte:

   “I start, well informed as to the intention of the King and of
   yourself. Let your Excellency have no fears; it would be an
   unpardonable blunder in me to compromise in such an affair the
   dignity of my master, or of his minister: to do one’s best is
   nothing in politics; the first man who offers himself can do as
   much. Do the best that can possibly be done under the
   circumstances is what should distinguish from the common
   servitor, him whom His Majesty and yourself Monsieur le Comte,
   honor with your confidence in so delicate a matter. I am, etc.

                                                   “Beaumarchais.”

But the French government was slow to move. They were willing to make
use of the indefatigable zeal of their secret agent in collecting
information, but they were in no haste to commit themselves by any act
that might bring them prematurely into conflict with England. Rightly
enough, they wished to wait until the colonists themselves had arrived
at a decision. “France,” says Lecky, “had no possible interest in the
constitutional liberties of Americans. She had a vital interest in their
independence.” No one realized this fact better than Beaumarchais, and
for exactly this reason he continued to urge, with unabated ardor that
France should consent to give the colonists the secret, yet absolutely
indispensable aid, which he had been preparing; the fear which tormented
him was that through lack of means of effective resistance they should
reconcile themselves with the mother country. Still apparently occupied
with the affair of d’Eon, late in November he appeared again at
Versailles. On the 24th in a letter to Vergennes relating to the change
of costume decided upon for the Chevalier, Beaumarchais wrote: “Instead
of awaiting the reply, which should bear a definite decision, do you
approve that I write the King again that I am here, that you have seen
me trembling lest in a thing as easy as it is necessary, and perhaps the
most important that he will ever have to decide, his Majesty should
choose the negative?

“Whatever else happens I implore the favor of being allowed an audience
for a quarter of an hour, before he comes to any decision, so that I may
respectfully demonstrate to him the necessity of undertaking, the
facility of doing, the certainty of succeeding, and the immense harvest
of glory and repose which this little sowing will yield to his reign....
In case you have orders for me, I am at the hotel of Jouy rue des
Recollets.”

The “seed” which Beaumarchais demanded, which should bring such a
harvest of prosperity and glory to France was a sum of money, 2,000,000
francs perhaps, which he proposed to send as specie, or converted into
munitions of war through such channels as he had prepared in other
countries. During the first period of Beaumarchais’s activity in our
cause, no idea of his personal intervention except as transmitter of the
funds of the government, appeared to have entered his mind. The icy
coldness with which his advances were met did not in the least chill his
ardor—he only looked about for some new avenue of approach. His plans
had been disapproved, not to say rejected.—The 7th of December he
addressed another memoir to the King, couched in such respectful
language, so warm and glowing from his inmost heart, that its daring
boldness was almost forgotten. (In his _New Materials for the History of
the American Revolution_, Durand gives the Memoir in full.—The
selections here given are taken from his translation of the original.)

                                                           “Au Roi

   “Sire: Your Majesty’s disapproval of a plan is, in general, a law
   for its rejection by all who are interested in it. There are
   plans, however, of such supreme importance to the welfare of your
   Kingdom, that a zealous servant may deem it right to present
   them more than once, for fear that they may not have been
   understood from the most favorable point of view.

   “The project which I do not mention here, but of which Your
   Majesty is aware through M. de Vergennes, is of this number; I
   rely wholly upon the strength of my reasons to secure its
   adoption. I entreat you, Sire, to weigh them with all the
   attention which such an important affair demands.

   “When this paper is read by you, my duty is done. We propose,
   Sire, and you judge. Yours is the more important task, for we are
   responsible to you, while you, Sire, are responsible to God, to
   yourself, and to the great people to whom good or ill may ensue
   according to your decision.

   “M. de Vergennes informs me that Your Majesty does not deem it
   just to adopt the proposed expedient. The objection, then, has no
   bearing on the immense utility of the project, nor on the danger
   of carrying it out, but solely on the delicate conscientiousness
   of Your Majesty.

   “A refusal due to such honorable motives would condemn one to
   silence, did not the extreme importance of the proposed object
   make one examine whether the _justice_ of the King of France is
   not really interested in adopting such an expedient. In general
   it is certain that any idea, any project opposed to justice
   should be discarded by every honest man.

   “But, Sire, the policy of governments is not the moral law of its
   citizens.... A kingdom is a vast isolated body, farther removed
   from its neighbors by a diversity of interests, than by the sea,
   the citadels, and the barriers which bound it. There is no common
   law between them which ensures its safety.... The welfare and the
   prosperity of each impose upon each, relations which are
   variously modified under the name of international law, the
   principle of which, even according to Montesquieu, is to do the
   best for one’s self as the first law, with the least possible
   wrong to other governments as the second.’ ...

   “The justice and protection which a king owes to his subjects is
   a strict and rigorous duty; while that which he may offer to
   other states is never other than conventional. Hence it follows
   that the national policy which preserves states, differs in
   almost every respect from the civil morality which governs
   individuals....

   “It is the English, Sire, which it concerns you to humiliate and
   to weaken, if you do not wish to be humiliated and weakened
   yourself on every occasion. Have the usurpations and outrages of
   that people ever had any limit but that of its strength? Have
   they not always waged war against you without declaring it? Did
   they not begin the last one in a time of peace, by a sudden
   capture of five hundred of your vessels? Did they not humble you
   by forcing you to destroy your finest seaport?... humiliation
   which would have made Louis XIV _plutôt manger ses bras_ than not
   atone for? A humiliation that makes the heart of every true
   Frenchman bleed.... Your Majesty is no longer ignorant that the
   late king, forced by events to accept the shameful treaty of
   1763, swore to avenge these indignities.... The very singularity
   of his plan only the better discloses his indignation....

   “Without the intestine commotions which worry the English they
   already would have profited by the state of weakness and disorder
   under which the late king transmitted the kingdom to you, to
   deprive you of the pitiful remains of your possessions in
   America, Africa, and India, nearly all of them in their hands,
   and yet Your Majesty is so delicate and conscientious as to
   hesitate!

   “An indefatigable, zealous servant succeeds in putting the most
   formidable weapon in your hand, one you can use without
   committing yourself and without striking a blow, so as to abase
   your natural enemies and render them incapable of injuring you
   for a long while....

   “Ah, Sire, if you believe you owe so much to that proud English
   people, do you owe nothing to your own good people in France, in
   America, in India? But if your scruples are so delicate that you
   have no desire to favor what may injure your enemies, how, Sire,
   can you allow your subjects to contend with other European
   powers, in conquering countries belonging to the poor Indians,
   the African Savages or the Caribs who have never wronged you? How
   can you allow your vessels to take by force and bind suffering
   black men whom nature made free and who are only miserable
   because you are powerful? How can you suffer three rival powers
   to seize iniquitously upon and divide Poland under your very
   eyes?...

   “Were men angels, political ways might undoubtedly be disdained.
   But if men were angels there would be no need of religion to
   enlighten them, of laws to govern them, of magistrates to
   restrain them, of soldiers to subdue them; and the earth instead
   of being a faithful image of hell, would be indeed a celestial
   abode. All we can do is to take men as they are, and the wisest
   king can go no farther than the legislator Solon, who said: ‘I do
   not give the Athenians the best laws, but only those adapted for
   the place, the time and the people for whom I make them.’ ...

   “I entreat you, Sire, in the name of your subjects, to whom you
   owe your best efforts; in the name of that inward repose which
   your Majesty so properly cherishes; in the name of the glory and
   prosperity of a reign begun under such happy auspices; I entreat
   you, Sire, not to be deceived by the brilliant sophism of a
   false sensibility. _Summum jus, summa injuria._ This deplorable
   excess of equity towards your enemies would be the most signal
   injustice towards your subjects who soon suffer the penalty of
   scruples out of place.

   “I have treated the gravest questions summarily, for fear of
   weakening my arguments by giving them greater extension, and
   especially through fear of wearying the attention of Your
   Majesty. If any doubts still remain, Sire, after reading what I
   have presented to you, efface my signature, and have this attempt
   copied by another hand, in order that the feebleness of the
   reasoner may not diminish the force of the argument, and lay this
   discussion before any man instructed by experience and knowledge
   of worldly affairs; and if there is one, beginning with M. de
   Vergennes, who does not agree with me, I close my mouth; ...

   “Finally, Sire, I must confess to being so confounded by your
   Majesty’s refusal, that, unable to find a better reason for it, I
   conjecture that the negotiator is an obstacle to the success of
   this important affair in the mind of Your Majesty. Sire, my own
   interest is nothing, that of serving you is everything. Select
   any man of probity, intelligence and discretion, who can be
   relied upon; I will take him to England and make such efforts as
   I hope will attain for him the same confidence that has been
   awarded to myself. He shall conduct the affair to a successful
   issue, while I will return and fall back into the quiet obscurity
   from which I emerged, rejoicing in having at least begun an
   affair of the greatest utility that any negotiator was ever
   honored with.

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”

   _Post Scriptum._

   “It is absolutely impossible to give in writing all that relates
   to this affair at bottom on account of the profound secrecy
   which it requires, although it is extremely easy for me to
   demonstrate the safety of the undertaking, the facility of doing,
   the certainty of success, and the immense harvest of glory and
   tranquillity which, Sire, this small grain of seed, sowed in
   time, must give to your reign.

   “May the guardian angel of this government incline the mind of
   Your Majesty. Should he award us this first success, the rest
   will take care of itself. I answer for it.”

Consider for a moment that the loyal subject who dared to write thus to
an absolute king, his master, was a civilly degraded man, incapable in
the eyes of the law of fulfilling any public function. It is the same
man to whom had been addressed several years previously, the famous
letter from some English admirer, which was inscribed “To Beaumarchais,
the only free man in France,” and it was delivered to him.

No special attention seems to have been paid to this memoir. At least no
outward sign was given; and Beaumarchais after waiting several days,
resorted to another measure. He addressed a letter to the King upon the
very inconsequent subject of the costume which the Chevalier D’Eon
should assume and the disposition that should be made of his man’s
attire. To such questions, at least, Louis XVI would not fear to give a
definite answer—perhaps he might be induced to take an additional step
and half unconsciously to decide weightier matters. The expedient was
worth a trial and Beaumarchais resorted to it. In writing the letter he
left a wide margin and humbly begged the King to write the answer
opposite each question.

“The autograph,” said Loménie, “is interesting. The body of the piece is
written in the hand of Beaumarchais and signed by him; the replies to
each question are traced in the margin, in a handwriting fine, but
uneven, weak, undecided, where the v’s and t’s are scarcely indicated.
It is the hand of the good, though weak and unhappy sovereign whom the
revolution was to devour seventeen years later.... Below is written and
signed in the hand of Vergennes, ‘All the additions are in the
handwriting of the King.’”

   “Essential points which I implore M. de Vergennes to present for
   the decision of the King to be replied to on the margin:

   [Sidenote: In the provinces only.]

   “Does the King accord the demoiselle d’Eon permission to wear her
   cross of St. Louis on her woman’s attire?

   [Sidenote: Yes.]

   “Does His Majesty approve the gratification of 2000 pounds which I
   allowed that demoiselle for her Trousseau?

   [Sidenote: She must sell it.]

   “Does His Majesty allow her the entire disposition of her man’s
   attire?

       *       *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

   [Sidenote: Good.]

   “The King not being able to refuse a recognition in good form of
   the papers which I have brought back from England, I have begged
   M. de Vergennes, to implore His Majesty to add with his own hand,
   several words showing his approval of the way in which I have
   filled my mission. That recompense, the dearest to my heart, may
   one day be of great utility to me....

   [Sidenote: That you received none.]

   “As the first person whom I will see in England is milord
   Rochford, and as he is likely to ask me in secret the reply of
   the King of France to the prayer which the King of England made
   through me, what shall I reply?

   [Sidenote: Perhaps.]

   “If that lord wishes secretly to engage me to see the monarch
   shall I accept or not?

   [Sidenote: It is useless.]

“If that minister ... wishes to bring me into connection with other
ministers, or if the occasion in any way arises shall I accept or not?”

       *       *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

Finally Beaumarchais brought forward the demand for which the rest of
the letter is but a cloak, the one burning question for the answer of
which he had waited so long and in vain and to which Louis XVI still
made no reply:

   “And now I ask before starting, the positive response to my last
   memoir; but if ever question was important, it must be admitted
   that it is this one. I answer on my head, after having well
   reflected, for the most glorious success of this operation for
   the entire reign of my master, without his person, or of that of
   his ministers, or his interests being in the least compromised.
   Can anyone of those who influence His Majesty against this
   measure answer on his head to the King for the evil which will
   infallibly come to France if it is rejected?

   “In the case that we shall be so unhappy as that the King should
   constantly refuse to adopt a plan so simple and so wise, I
   implore His Majesty to permit me to take note for him of the date
   when I arranged this superb resource, in order that one day he
   may render me the justice due to my views, when it will only be
   left to us bitterly to regret not having followed them.

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”

[Illustration: CHARLES GRAVIER—COMTE DE VERGENNES]

“The temerity of the secret agent,” says M. de Loménie, “in the end
prevailed over the prudence of the King; but for the moment ...
Beaumarchais was obliged to start for London knowing only that d’Eon
must sell his old clothes.”

For the moment the hopes of Beaumarchais seemed wholly shattered.
“Intrigues of the court,” said Doniol, “controlled the actions of M. de
Vergennes, and made him feel the danger. The minister was visibly the
butt of serious attacks, Beaumarchais was in consequence held at a
distance. Everything seemed to be compromised. He seized the occasion of
the new year to write to M. de Vergennes.

                                                 “January 1, 1776.
   “Monsieur le comte:

   “It is impossible to be so deeply touched as I am with your
   favors without being very much so by your apparent coldness. I
   have examined myself well, and I feel that I do not merit it. How
   could you know that I had carried my zeal too far, if you do not
   first enter with me into the details of what I have done or ought
   to have done?

   “Great experience with men, and the habit of misfortune, have
   given me that watchful prudence, which makes me think of
   everything and direct things according to the timid or courageous
   character of those for whom I do them.”

Thus the year 1775 ended and the new year began with but little
encouragement for the agent of the King in the cause of America; but his
was a heart that did not easily lose courage. More than this, matters
were really advancing; the timid policy of the King and the objections
of the ministers began to give way to “the quiet and uniform influence
of M. de Vergennes, which imperceptibly overcame the scruples of the
inexperienced Prince, who never comprehended the far reaching influence
of the question.” (Bancroft—History of America, IV, p. 363.)



CHAPTER XVII


“_It was absolutely necessary to the existence and prosperity of France
that the great commercial power and assumed preponderance of Great
Britain and her attempted monopoly of the seas should be broken. The
revolt of the American Colonies was her opportunity._”

_George Clinton Genet in Magazine of American History, Nov., 1878._


   Beaumarchais’s English connections—With Lord Rochford—With
     Wilkes—Meets Arthur Lee—Sends Memoir to the King—His Commission
     to Buy Portuguese Coin—Called to Account by Lord
     Rochford—Vergennes’s Acceptance of his Ideas—Article in _The
     Morning Chronicle_.


As has been stated already, Beaumarchais during his stay in London came
in touch with all classes. It was Lord Rochford whom he had known
intimately at Madrid who introduced him at the court of St. James. It
was d’Eon and Morande who brought him into touch with the brilliant,
daring Wilkes, then Lord Mayor of London.

Around the latter’s table the most pronounced members of the opposition,
as well as the leading Americans then in London, were wont to assemble.
It was here that Beaumarchais met the young and gifted representative of
America, Arthur Lee, who was destined to bring so much discord into all
continental relations with America. The bitterness which subsequent
developments brought out in his character had not then shown itself.

During the winter of 1776, Lee was replacing Franklin in London. Ardent
and intelligent, with decided personal charm he captivated Beaumarchais.
In fact it was primarily through Lee that Beaumarchais came in touch
with the pulse of American life and from him that he acquired that
ardent sympathy with the sons of the new world, which never left him.

Both Beaumarchais and the Count de Lauragais, another agent of France in
London, urged the French minister to permit Lee to appear before him, to
plead in person the cause of his country. But on this point Vergennes
was inexorable, and Arthur Lee was not permitted to come to Versailles.

Most of the correspondence which passed between Beaumarchais and the
French ministers during the early part of 1776 is lacking, but the
following memoir addressed to the king, February 29, 1776, shows that a
decided advance had been made:


                                           “_La Paix ou la Guerre_
   “To the King alone:

   “The famous quarrel between America and England which is soon
   going to divide the world and change the system of Europe,
   imposes upon every power the necessity of examining well how the
   event of this separation will influence it, either to serve its
   ends or to thwart them.

   “But the most interested of all is certainly France, whose sugar
   islands have been, since the peace of 1763, the constant object
   of regret and of hope to the king of England....

   “In the first memoir placed before Your Majesty three months ago
   by M. de Vergennes, I tried to prove that the sense of justice of
   Your Majesty could not be offended in taking wise precautions
   against this enemy who never has shown herself delicate in those
   which she has taken against us.

   “To-day when a violent crisis is advancing upon us with great
   strides, I am obliged to warn Your Majesty that the conservation
   of our American possessions and the peace which you so desire
   depends solely upon this one proposition—_We must aid the
   Americans!_

   “This is what I will prove to you.... The King of England, the
   ministers, the parliament, the opposition, the nation, the
   English people, parties, in a word, which tear the state to
   pieces, all agree that it is not to be hoped that they can bring
   back the Americans, even if the great efforts which they now put
   forth should be able to subdue them. From this, Sire, the violent
   debates between the ministry and the opposition, the action and
   reaction of opinions admitted or rejected, do not in the least
   advance matters, they serve, however, to throw much light upon
   the subject....

   “The fear exists in England that the Americans, encouraged by
   their successes and perhaps emboldened by some secret treaty with
   France and Spain, will refuse the same conditions of peace to-day
   which they demanded with clasped hands two years ago. On the
   other hand the Sieur L. (Lee) secret deputy of the colonies at
   London, absolutely discouraged at the uselessness of the efforts
   which he has made through me to obtain from the French Ministry
   aid of powder and munitions of war—said to me to-day,

   “‘For the last time, is France absolutely decided to refuse us
   all aid and has she become the victim of England and the laughing
   stock of Europe, by this unbelievable torpor?’

   “Obliged myself to reply positively, I await your last reply to
   his offer before I give my own.

   “‘We offer,’ he says, ‘to France as a price of her secret aid, a
   secret treaty of commerce which will enable her to reap during a
   certain number of years after the peace, all the benefits with
   which we have for the last century enriched England, besides a
   guarantee of her West Indian Possessions according to our power.

   “‘If this is rejected, Congress immediately will make a public
   proclamation and will offer to all nations of the world what I
   secretly offer to you to-day.... The Americans, exasperated, will
   join their forces to those of England and will fall upon your
   sugar islands—of which you will be deprived forever.’ ...

   “Here, Sire, is the striking picture of our position. Your
   Majesty sincerely wishes to maintain peace. The means to conserve
   peace, Sire, will make the _résumé_ of this memoir.

   “Admit all the foregoing hypotheses and let us reason. _This
   which follows is very important._

   “Either England will have the most complete success in the
   campaign over the Americans; or the Americans will repel the
   English with loss; or England will adopt the plan of abandoning
   the colonies to themselves and separating in a friendly manner;
   or the opposition taking possession of the ministry, will bring
   about the submission of the colonies on condition of their being
   reinstated as in 1763.

   “Here are all the possibilities brought together. Is there a
   single one which does not instantly bring upon us the war which
   you desire to avoid? Sire, in the name of Heaven, deign to
   examine the matter with me.

   “First, if England should triumph over America, it can only be at
   an enormous expense of men and money, now the only indemnity
   which England will propose to make on her return, will be the
   capture of our sugar islands.... Thus Sire, it will only remain
   for you, the choice of beginning too late an unfruitful war, or
   to sacrifice to the most disgraceful inactivity your American
   colonies and to lose two hundred and eighty millions of capital
   and more than thirty millions of revenue.

   “Second, if the Americans win, the moment they are free from the
   English, the latter in despair at seeing their possessions
   diminished by three fourths, will be still more anxious to
   indemnify themselves by the easy capture of our islands, and one
   may be sure that they will not fail in attempting it.

   “Third, if the English imagine themselves forced to abandon the
   colonies to themselves, which is the secret desire of the king,
   their loss being the same and their commerce equally ruined the
   result remains the same for us.

   “Fourth, if the opposition comes into power and concludes a
   treaty with the American colonies, the Americans, outraged
   against the French whose refusal to aid alone forces them to
   submit to England, menace us from to-day forth, to take away the
   islands by joining forces with the English....

   “What shall we do in this extremity to win peace and to save our
   islands?

   “_Sire the only means is to give help to the Americans_, so as to
   make their forces equal to those of England.... Believe me Sire,
   the saving of a few millions to-day soon may cause a great deal
   of blood to flow, and money to be lost to France....

   “If it is replied that we cannot aid the Americans without
   drawing upon us a storm, I reply that this danger can be averted
   if the plan be adopted which I have so often proposed, to aid the
   Americans secretly....

   “If your Majesty has no more skillful man to employ, I am ready
   to take the matter in charge and will be responsible for the
   treaty without compromising anyone, persuaded that my zeal will
   better supplement my lack of dexterity, than the dexterity of
   another could replace my zeal.... Your Majesty knows better than
   anyone that secrecy is the soul of action and that in politics a
   project made known, is a project lost.

   “Since I have served you sire, I have never asked for any favor.
   Permit, O my master, that no one be allowed to prevent my working
   for you and my whole existence is consecrated to you.

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”

Under the outward show of indifference the French government had been
steadily moving toward the point aimed at by its secret agent. Early in
March Vergennes had placed a list of considerations before the king in
which the future actions of the government were outlined. Beaumarchais
had been recalled in order to deliberate with the ministers, and when
all was arranged, he returned to London to continue the work there.

But the enemies of the cause of America were not slumbering and in spite
of his precautions he found that he was being watched. “Beaumarchais,”
says Doniol, “already under the suspicion of the police of the foreign
office, of being employed with that with which he was really occupied,
had been furnished with a letter by M. de Sartine, which gave him a
mission in the name of the king to buy up ancient Portuguese coin, to be
used in the islands.”

Beaumarchais wrote to Vergennes, April 12, 1776, “I wrote yesterday to
M. de Sartine thanking him as well as the king for having furnished me
with the means of sleeping tranquilly in London. Certain that you will
deliver him my dispatch I lay down my pen, because for eight hours I
have been writing and making copies, and I am exhausted.

   “Deign to remember sometimes, M. le Comte, a man who respects you
   and who even dares in his heart to add a more tender sentiment.
   Beaumarchais.”

The following letter bears the date, April 12th, 1776; but as
Beaumarchais later explains, it really was written on the 16th. It shows
the intimate relation which existed between him and Lord Rochford, as
well as the skill and address of Beaumarchais in extricating himself
from a very difficult situation.

   “Monsieur le Comte:

   “While England assembled at Westminster Hall is judging the
   Duchess of Kingston, I will give you an account of a serious
   conversation which took place between Lord Rochford and myself.”...

   The lord, after informing Beaumarchais of a letter he had just
   received from King George of England appointing him to the
   vice-royalty in Ireland, continued: “But I must not omit to read
   you the last phrase of the letter of the King, M. de
   Beaumarchais, because it regards you particularly.

   “‘A vessel from Boston, charged with letters and merchandise from
   Congress for a merchant of Nantes, with orders to exchange for
   munitions of war, has been brought to Bristol. This circumstance,
   joined to that of two French gentlemen, secretly in communication
   with Congress, and having, it is said, hidden relations with
   persons in London, has singularly alarmed our council....

   “‘Several evilly informed persons have endeavored to cause
   suspicions of this connivance to fall upon you. What do you think
   of all this? I know very well that you are here to finish with
   d’Eon; on this point I wish to trust your word alone, as I have
   already said to the king.’

   “‘Before replying, Milord,’ I said, ‘to that which regards me,
   permit me to speak first of the vessel from America. Not that I
   have orders from our ministers, but following my own light. I
   have learned already of the arrival of the American vessel at
   Bristol, but I was no more astonished that it was charged for a
   merchant of Nantes, than if it had been one for Amsterdam, or
   Cadiz, or Hamburg. The insurgents have need of munitions, and
   have no money to buy them, they are forced, then, to hazard their
   raw materials in order to exchange them, and any port whatever
   where they can find munitions is naturally as good as any other.’

   “‘But, Monsieur, has not France given orders in her ports in
   regard to this? Have we not the right to expect the merchants of
   Nantes to be punished?’

   “‘Milord, you have permitted me the right to speak frankly. I
   will do it all the more freely since I have no commission and
   what I say will compromise no one. Indeed, Milord, do you wish
   our administration to deal harshly with the people of Nantes? Are
   we at war with anyone? Before asking this question of me, let me
   ask a preliminary one of you. Because England has a private
   quarrel with someone, what right has she to restrict our
   commerce? What treaty obliges us to open or close our ports
   according to the wish of the British nation? Certainly, Milord, I
   scarcely can believe that anyone would dare to raise so
   unbelievable a question, the solution of which might have
   consequences which England has great interest not to provoke....

   “‘Nothing prevents you from chasing the Americans as much as you
   like, seizing them whenever you can,—except under the cannon of
   our forts, by the way! But require of us to disturb our merchants
   because they have dealings with people with whom we are at peace,
   whether we regard them as your subjects or a people become free,
   ... in truth that is asking too much! I do not know what the
   administration would think of such a demand, but I know very well
   that it seems to me decidedly more than out of place.’

   “‘I see, Monsieur, that you are crimson with anger.’ (In truth M.
   le Comte, the fire had mounted to my face, and if you disapprove,
   that I have shown so much heat, I ask your pardon.)

   “‘Milord,’ I replied, with gentleness and modesty, ‘you who are
   English and patriotic, you should not think evil that _un bon
   Français_ should have pride for his country.’

   “‘Therefore, I am not in the least offended.’”

   The conversation now turned on the delicate matter of
   Beaumarchais’s mission. After showing his credentials for the
   buying up of Portuguese coin and frankly affirming that the
   affair with d’Eon was settled so far as he was concerned, he
   continued, “‘If there should be any pretended French agents in
   England, I am sure that if they could be captured, the government
   would disavow them, and even punish them....

   “‘And now, Milord, I offer you my sincere compliments for that
   which the king destines for you. If you accept the Vice-Royalty,
   I hope you will remember your ancient friendship for M. Duflos
   whom I recommend to you afresh. I hope you will charge him with
   the details of your house in Ireland as you have in France. He
   promised me this.’ (This Duflos, M. le Comte, is a Frenchman whom
   I long ago secured for Lord Rochford; he is absolutely devoted to
   me, and through him you will always have certain news of the most
   intimate interior of the vice-royalty. I am a little like Figaro,
   M. le Comte, I do not lose my head for a little noise.)

   “By the way, the Hessian troops have started. They took the oath
   of allegiance to England the 22nd of March.

   “The Americans have actually twelve vessels of from twenty-two to
   forty-four pieces of cannon, and twelve or fifteen of twenty
   pieces, and more than thirty of twelve pieces, which gives them a
   navy almost as respectable as that of the English, and for the
   last two and a half months the insurgents have lost only one
   vessel brought into Bristol, which is indeed worthy of remark.

   “I count upon your goodness to hope that my recommendations for
   Aix are not forgotten. [In allusion to his suit with the count de
   La Blache, still pending.] It is not just that I be judged in the
   South when I am nine hundred miles away in the North.

   “Receive my respects, my homage, and the assurance of my perfect
   devotion.

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”
   (Doniol I, 407.)

On the 26th of the same month, M. de Vergennes wrote to his secret
agent, “almost as though he spoke to an ambassador.” (Doniol.)

   “I have the satisfaction of announcing to you that His Majesty
   very much approves the noble and frank manner with which you
   repelled the attack made upon you by Lord Rochford in relation to
   the American vessel destined for Nantes and conducted to Bristol.
   You have said nothing which His Majesty would not have prescribed
   you to say if he had foreseen that you would be obliged to answer
   in regard to a matter so far removed from the business with which
   you are charged. Receive my compliments, Monsieur. After having
   assured you of the approbation of the king, mine cannot seem very
   interesting to you; nevertheless, I cannot refuse myself the
   satisfaction of applauding the wisdom and firmness of your
   conduct and renewing the assurances of my entire esteem. I have
   not neglected your commission for Aix. M. le Garde des Sceaux
   assured me that it would remain in suspense till your return.

   “I am very perfectly

                                                    “de Vergennes.

   “Versailles, April 26th, 1776.”

   Post Scriptum.

   “The king approves, that you do not refuse the overtures the Lord
   Rochford may make to you. You are prudent and discreet. I should
   be without uneasiness even if you had a more important commission
   than that which M. de Sartine has given you. It was well,
   however, that you had it, since it served to disperse the
   suspicions aroused by your frequent voyages to London. It must be
   admitted that the English whom we believe to be men are really
   far less than women, if they are so easily frightened.... Nothing
   equals the sincere attachment with which I have the honor to be,
   Monsieur, your very humble, etc.

                                                   “de Vergennes.”

The same day Beaumarchais addressed the count with a letter from London
which runs as follows:

   “M. le Comte:

   “I profit by this occasion to entertain you with freedom upon the
   only really important matter at present, America and all that
   pertains to it. I reasoned a long time, day before yesterday,
   with the man you thought best to prevent coming to France.
   (Arthur Lee.) He incessantly asks if we are going to do
   absolutely nothing for them. And without wasting time in
   repeating to me how very important their success is to France
   because he does us the honor of believing that we agree with him
   on that point, he tells me simply, ‘We need arms, powder, and
   above all engineers; only you can help us, and it is to your
   interest to do so.’

   “The Americans are as well placed as possible; army, fleet
   provisions, courage, everything is excellent, but without powder
   and engineers how can they conquer or even defend themselves? Are
   we going to let them perish rather than loan them one or two
   millions? Are we afraid of losing the money?

   “Weakness and fear is all that one sees here....

   “It is clear that the ministry is silent because it has nothing
   to reply. Fear and anger on one side, weakness and embarrassment
   on the other, this is the real condition. You would be still more
   convinced of this truth if you will recall the nature of their
   treaties with Germany and if you examine the rate of the new
   loan.... And when this is well proved, is it really true, M. le
   Comte, that you will do nothing for the Americans?

   “Will you not have the goodness to show once more to the King how
   much he can gain, without striking a blow, in this one campaign?
   And will you not attempt to convince His Majesty that this
   miserable pittance which they demand, and over which we have been
   disputing for more than a year, will bring to us all the fruits
   of a great victory without undergoing the dangers of a combat?
   That this help can give to us while we sleep, all that the
   disgraceful treaty of 1763 made us lose? What greater view can
   occupy the council of the king and what force your pleading will
   take on if you show the reverse of the picture and count what the
   defeat of the Americans will cost us. Three hundred millions—our
   men—our vessels, our islands, etc.... because their forces once
   united against us, their audacity augmented by their great
   success, it is only certain that they will force these same
   Frenchmen to support a fatal war which two millions now would
   avert.

   “In spite of the danger which I run in writing these daring
   things from London, I feel myself twice as much French in London
   as at Paris. The patriotism of this people stirs my own....”

As may be seen from this letter, Arthur Lee still inspired complete
confidence in the agent of the French government, so much indeed that
Beaumarchais gladly disclosed to him the plans which he had formed for
coming to the aid of the Americans.

So certain was he that France would ultimately yield to the necessity of
giving them secret support that he no doubt spoke with indiscreet
assurance on the subject. Exactly what passed between the two men will
never be known, but what is certain is, that during the spring of 1776,
Arthur Lee addressed to the secret committee of Congress a letter in
which he says:

   “In consequence of active measures taken with the French Embassy
   in London, _M. de Vergennes has sent me a secret agent to inform
   me that the French court cannot think of making war on England
   but that she is ready to send five million worth of arms and
   ammunition to Cap Français to be thence sent to the colonies._”

A careful analysis of this important missive will at once make clear the
profound misunderstanding which arose in the mind of the secret
committee of Congress regarding the true state of affairs in France. So
completely was every statement perverted that though the whole bears a
semblance of truth yet in reality nothing could be further removed from
it.

For instead of sending an agent to confer with Arthur Lee, M. de
Vergennes had steadily refused to enter into any relation whatever with
him. Instead of promising munitions of war for which Beaumarchais had
been pleading so long and so ardently, the government continued to
refuse to compromise itself by making any statement regarding them.

And yet in judging Arthur Lee, whether he intentionally distorted the
truth or only indulged in what he considered a harmless exaggeration, we
must not forget that this letter with its assurances of help, arriving
at the moment which it did, had a profound influence in shaping men’s
minds for independence.

As regards Lee himself, the letter had the effect of greatly augmenting
his credit with Congress. Silas Deane was already on his way to France,
charged with an express commission to secure munitions of war on credit,
so it was determined to join Arthur Lee to the commission as soon as it
could be brought about.

But to return to the French court. The first intimation of anything like
an avowed approval of the plans of Beaumarchais is to be found in a
letter of M. de Vergennes under date of May 2, 1776. He wrote:

“I have received the first of this month, Monsieur, the letter with
which you honored me, written the 26th of last month.”

Then follows a lengthy preamble in which the count, speaking as an
observer of men and one used to dealing with them, continues:

“This preface is not destined to refute your foresight, which on the
contrary I praise and approve. But do not suppose that because your
plans are not immediately acted on, that they are rejected. Although the
method which I employ is sure, I am forced to curb the desire which I
feel to express to you all my thoughts, therefore, I rely upon your
sagacity to divine them. Think well and you will find that I am nearer
to you than you imagine.... A thousand thanks, Monsieur, for the news
items which you communicate to me, they have been seen and relished....
I have delivered the letter which you recommended to me; if an answer
comes I will forward it to you. I flatter you that you know my
friendship and attachment for you.

                                                   “de Vergennes.”

In fact the hindrances were gradually disappearing from the path of the
minister. In a résumé, in all probability drawn up by Vergennes himself,
entitled, “_Réflexions sur la nécessité de secourir les Américains et de
se préparer à la guerre avec l’Angleterre_,” without date, but placed by
Doniol the first of May, 1776, the following passages occur:


“There is no obstacle, and it is even necessary to aid the insurgents
indirectly by means of munitions or of money....

“We are to make no agreement with them until their independence is
established. The aid must be veiled and hidden, and appear to come from
commerce so that we can always deny it.

“It would be sufficient for an intelligent merchant, faithful and
discreet, to be stationed in each one of the ports, where the American
vessels would come to land their cargoes—he would treat directly with
their captains and would mask the shipments to prevent the reproach of
the court of England.”—Doniol.


This was not at all what Beaumarchais had been planning and preparing.
In the next chapter we shall see him with his usual flexibility abandon
his own ideas and adopt those of the ministry, since they tended to the
same end. In the meantime he was addressing the following letters to
Vergennes:

   “Monsieur le Comte:

   “There is nothing very important here but the news of the
   evacuation of Boston, which arrived three days ago....

   “The government assumes an air of approbation, of mystery, of
   intelligence even. It wishes to have it considered as a ruse of
   the ministry, but that does not take. It is too certain that the
   impossibility to hold Boston from lack of provisions has driven
   the English away....

   “All this confirms what I announced in my last dispatch, that the
   Americans are in good condition everywhere, engineers and powder
   excepted. I thank you for your obliging goodness in regard to my
   affair at Aix. I thank you also for the honorable encouragement
   which the approbation of the king and your own gives to my
   enterprise.... Say what you will, M. le Comte, a little
   exaltation in the heart of an honest man, far from spoiling him
   for action vivifies everything he touches, and enables him to do
   more than he would have dared to promise from his natural
   capacity. I feel this exaltation, it remains for my prudence to
   direct it in a way that turns to the good of the affairs of the
   king. Conserve for me his esteem, Monsieur le Comte.

   “Ah, Monsieur le Comte, as a favor ... some powder and engineers!
   It seems to me that I never wanted anything so much....”

                                             (Given by Gaillardet.)

                              Five days later; London, May 8, 1776.

   ... “I say then, the time approaches when the Americans will be
   masters at home.... If they have the upper hand, as everything
   seems to point to that end, will we not have infinitely to
   regret, Monsieur le Comte, not to have ceded to their prayers?
   If, far from having acquired the right to their gratitude, as we
   could easily do at small cost and without risk, we will have
   alienated them forever? As they will have conquered without us,
   they will revenge themselves for our hardness to them. What are
   two or three millions advanced without compromising ourselves?
   Because I can engage my sacred faith to make any sum you wish
   reach them at second hand by way of Holland, without risk or
   other authorization than that which exists between us. A small
   effort will perhaps suffice, because I know that the Virginians
   have now an abundant manufacture of saltpeter, and that the
   Congress has decided that powder shall be made in every place
   instead of at Philadelphia as formerly. Beside this, Virginia has
   seven thousand regular troops, and seventy thousand militia, iron
   in abundance, and she makes almost as many arms as all the rest
   of America together.

   “But engineers, engineers and powder! Or the money to buy them!”

                                                     (Gaillardet.)

Three days later, London, May 11, 1776.... “All the quarrels for the
last eight days are in relation to the _quomodo_ of the evacuation of
Boston. The opposition and the ministry are openly tearing out each
other’s eyes about it. The whole affair consists of the doctors deciding
how the sick man died. Let them dispute over that great coffin. The
couriers arrive at every moment.... To-morrow all the news of the
American papers will be printed in the English ones. The whole affair
begins to clear up. You were certainly very near me as you said, when I
imagined you very very far.” (Gaillardet.)

                                            “London, May 17, 1776.

   ... Eight days ago a pack boat from Virginia sent by Lord Dunmore
   brought news to the government, but it was so bad that it was
   thought advisable to say that the chest containing the mail was
   washed overboard in a storm. Admirable ruse! Effort of superior
   genius! Yesterday another vessel arrived from Canada. A man
   jumped into a boat and the vessel pushed out again. That man
   hurried straight to London without stopping. No one can find out
   his errand. From these incidents comes the refrain; the news must
   be very black since it is kept such a mystery.”

                                                     (Gaillardet.)

Thus ended the first phase of the activity of Beaumarchais in the cause
of the Americans. In a few more days he was back in France ready to turn
the force of his mind, the power of his intellect and all the energy of
his being into the development of that vast mercantile establishment
which was for a time to supply the colonies with munitions of war and
other necessities.

As a proof that no one ever was able to pass from grave to gay with more
facility than Beaumarchais, we will close the present chapter with a
rather lengthy extract from an article which appeared in the London
_Morning Chronicle_ shortly before his return to France:

From the _Morning Chronicle_, London, May 6, 1776.

   “Monsieur, the Editor:

   “I am a stranger, full of honor. If it is not to inform you
   absolutely who I am, it is at least to tell you in more than one
   sense who I am not.

   “Day before yesterday, at the Pantheon, after the concert and
   during the dance, I found under my feet a lady’s mantle of black
   taffeta, lined with the same and bordered with lace. I am
   ignorant to whom this mantle belongs, never having seen, even at
   the Pantheon, her who wore it and all my investigations since
   have not enabled me to learn anything in relation to her.

   “I therefore beg you, M. the Editor, to announce in your paper
   this lost mantle so that it may be returned faithfully to
   whomever shall reclaim it.

   “But that there may be no error in relation to it, I have the
   honor to announce to you that the person who lost it wore a pink
   plume that day in her hair; I think she had diamond pendants in
   her ears, but I am not so sure of that as of the rest. She is
   tall and well formed, her hair is a silvery blonde; her
   complexion dazzlingly white; her neck is fine and gracefully set;
   her form slender, and the prettiest little foot in the world. I
   have even remarked that she is very young. She is lively and
   distracted; her step is light and she has a decided taste for the
   dance.

   “If you ask me, M. the Editor, why, having noted her so well, I
   did not at once return her mantle, I shall have the honor to
   repeat what I said to you before, that I have never seen this
   person; that I do not know either her features, or her eyes, or
   her costume, or her carriage, and do not know who she is, or what
   she is like.

   “But if you insist upon knowing how I am able to so well define
   her, never having seen her, I in turn will be astonished that so
   exact an observer as you do not know that the simple examination
   of a lady’s mantle is sufficient to give of her all the notions
   by which she could be recognized.

   “Now suppose, Monsieur, that on examining this mantle, I found in
   the hood some stray hair of a beautiful blonde attached to the
   stuff, also some bits of down escaped from the feathers, you will
   admit that a great effort of genius would not be needed to
   conclude that the hair and the plume of that blonde must in every
   way resemble the samples which have detached themselves. You feel
   that perfectly. And since similar hair never grew from skin of
   uncertain whiteness, analogy will have taught you as it has
   taught me, that this beautiful silvery hair must have a dazzling
   complexion, something which no observer can dispute with us
   without dishonoring his judgment.

   “It is thus that a slightly worn spot in the taffeta on the two
   lateral parts of the interior of the hood which could not have
   come from anything but a repeated rubbing of two small hard
   bodies in movement, showed me that, not that she wore the
   pendants on that particular day, but that she does so ordinarily;
   and that it is hardly probable between you and me, that she would
   have neglected this adornment on a day of conquest or of grand
   assembly, both which are one. If I reason badly do not spare me,
   I beg you. Rigor is not injustice.

   “The rest goes without saying. It can easily be seen that it was
   sufficient for me to examine the ribbon which was attached to the
   mantle at the neck, and to knot it at the place rumpled by the
   ordinary usage to see that the space enclosed being small, the
   neck daily enclosed in that space must also be very fine and
   graceful. No difficulty there.

   “Suppose again, Monsieur, if on examining the body of the mantle
   you should have found upon the taffeta the impression of a very
   pretty little foot, marked in gray dust, would you not have
   reflected as I did, that had any other woman stepped on the
   mantle since its fall, she would certainly have deprived me of
   the pleasure of picking it up? Therefore it would have been
   impossible that the impression of the shoe came from any other
   person than her who lost the mantle. It follows, you would have
   said that if the shoe was small the foot must be smaller still.
   There is no merit in my having recognized that; the most careless
   observer, a child would have found that out.

   “But this impression made in passing and even without being felt,
   announces, besides an extreme vivacity of step, a strong
   preoccupation of mind to which grave, cold, or aged persons are
   little susceptible. I therefore very simply concluded that my
   charming blond is in the flower of her age, very lively and
   distracted. Would you not have thought the same, M. the Editor?

   “The next day in recalling that I had been able to pick up the
   mantle in a place where so many people passed (which proves that
   it fell at the very instant) without having been able to see who
   lost it (which proves that she was already far away), I said to
   myself, ‘Assuredly this person is the most alert beauty of
   England, Scotland and Ireland; and if I do not join America to
   the rest, it is only because they have become of late _diablement
   alerte_ in that country.’

   “In giving you this mantle, M. the Editor, permit me to envelop
   myself in my own and that I sign myself,

                                           “_L’Amateur français._”



CHAPTER XVIII


_Look upon my house, gentlemen, from henceforward as the chief of all
useful operations to you in Europe, and my person as one of the most
zealous partisans of your cause, the soul of your success and a man most
deeply impressed with the respectful esteem with which I have the honor
to be...._

  _“Roderigue Hortalès et Compagnie”
    Beaumarchais to the Secret Committee of Congress, Aug. 15, 1776._


    Memoir Explaining to the King the Plan of His Commercial
      House—Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.—The Doctor Du Bourg—Silas
      Deane’s Arrival—His Contract with Beaumarchais—Lee’s Anger—His
      Misrepresentations to Congress—Beaumarchais Obtains His
      Rehabilitation.


On the 24th of May, 1776, Beaumarchais returned to France. He wrote to
the Count de Vergennes the same night:

   “Monsieur le Comte,

   “I arrive very tired, completely exhausted. My first care is to
   ask you for your orders and the hour when you will be so good as
   to give me audience. It is three o’clock in the morning. My negro
   will be at your levée, he will be back for mine. I hope he will
   bring me the news which I desire with the greatest impatience,
   which is to go in person, and assure you of the very respectful
   devotion with which, I am,

   M. le Comte, your very humble and very obedient servitor,

   Beaumarchais.”                                           (Doniol.)

[Illustration: SILAS DEANE]

No written statement was ever made of the exact arrangement arrived at
between the minister and his confidential agent. What is certain is that
as soon as the latter understood the new plan of procedure he brought at
once to the aid of the undertaking the whole force of his powerful mind
as well as the experience of those years passed under the tutelage of
old Du Verney, and in his attempted enterprise at the court of Spain.

A letter without date, published for the first time by George Clinton
Genet in the _Magazine of American History_, 1878, written by
Beaumarchais to the King, gives a clear statement of how he proposed to
proceed in founding this new mercantile house which should hide from all
the world and even from the Americans themselves the connivance of the
Government in the operations:

   “To the King Alone:

   “While state reasons engage you to extend a helping hand to the
   Americans, policy requires that Your Majesty shall take abundant
   precaution to prevent the secret succor sent to America from
   becoming a firebrand between France and England in Europe.... On
   the other hand, prudence wills that you acquire a certainty that
   your funds may never fall into other hands than those for whom
   you destined them. Finally, the present condition of your
   finances does not permit you to make so great sacrifice at the
   moment as passing events seem to require.

   “It becomes my duty, Sire, to present to you, and it is for your
   wisdom to examine the following plan, the chief object of which
   is to avoid, by a turn which is absolutely commercial, the
   suspicion that your majesty has any hand in the affair.

   “The principal merit of this plan is to augment your aid so that
   a single million ... will produce the same results for the
   Americans as if your Majesty really had disbursed nine millions
   in their favor.... Your Majesty will begin by placing a million
   at the disposition of your agent, who will be named Roderigue
   Hortalès et Cie.; this is their commercial name and signature,
   under which I find it convenient that the whole operation shall
   be carried out.... One half million exchanged into Portuguese
   pieces, the only money current in America, will be promptly sent
   there, for there is an immediate necessity for the Americans to
   have a little gold at once to give life to their paper money,
   which without means of making it circulate already has become
   useless and stagnant in their hands. It is the little leaven that
   is necessary to put into the paste to raise it and make it
   ferment usefully.

   “Upon that half million no benefit can be obtained except the
   return of it in Virginian tobacco, which Congress must furnish to
   the house of Hortalès, who will have made a sale in advance to
   the Farmers-General of France, by which they will take the
   tobacco from them at a good price; but that is of no great
   consequence.

   “Roderigue Hortalès counts on employing the second half million
   in the purchase of cannon and powder, which he will forward at
   once to the Americans.”

Here follows an exposition of the proceedings, with an explanation of
how, supposing the king permits him to buy powder at actual cost price
from the magazines, instead of buying it in the market of France,
Holland, or elsewhere, the money invested by the king will increase not
in double progression, 1-2-4-8, etc., but in triple progression,
1-3-9-27, etc.

   “Your Majesty will not be frightened at the complicated air that
   this operation assumes under my pen, when you remember that no
   commercial speculation is carried on or succeeds by any more
   simple or more natural means than this.

   “I have treated this affair in so far, Sire, in the spirit of a
   great trader, who wishes to make a successful speculation and I
   have developed to you the unique secret by which commerce in bulk
   augments the prosperity of all states that have the good sense to
   protect it....

   “If the return in tobacco and the sale of the product take place
   as I have pointed out, Your Majesty soon will find yourself in a
   position to send back by the hands of Hortalès et Cie. the three
   millions provided for from the price and profits of these
   returns, to recommence operations on a larger scale.”

Then follow considerations upon the advisability of employing Holland or
French vessels for the transport of the munitions to Cape Francis,
chosen by Hortalès et Cie. as the first depot of commerce.

   “Holding to the choice of French vessel charged to the account of
   Roderigue Hortalès et Cie., Congress, or rather Mr. Adams,
   Secretary of Congress, will be alone forewarned by the agent in
   England that a vessel is carrying to him at Cape Francis both
   goods and munitions, which are to be returned in Virginian
   tobacco, so that he may send to the Cape upon a vessel loaded
   with tobacco an agent who will bear his power to receive both and
   to send back by the captain of Hortalès et Cie. the entire return
   in tobacco or at all events a recognition that he owes Hortalès
   et Cie. the balance of the amount for which he may not have been
   able to furnish return.”

So far in Beaumarchais’s mind, the mercantile undertaking was to be for
the king, only cloaked by the appearance of a mercantile house. But it
seems that the French government, anxious to evade all possible risk and
wishing to deny all connivance in the transactions, decided to remain
entirely foreign to the operation.

“We will give you secretly,” said the government, “a million. We will
try to obtain the same amount from the court of Spain.... with these two
millions and the co-operation of private individuals, whom you will
associate in your enterprise, you will found your house and at your own
risk and perils you will provision the Americans with arms and
munitions, and objects of equipment and whatever is necessary to support
the war. Our arsenals will deliver to you these things, but you will
replace them or pay for them. You shall not demand money of the
Americans, because they have none, but you shall ask returns in
commodities of their soil, the sale of which we will facilitate in our
country.... In a word, the operation secretly sanctioned by us at the
outset must grow and develop through its own support. But on the other
hand, we reserve the right of favoring or opposing it according to
political contingencies. You will render us an account of your profits
and losses, while we will decide whether we should grant you new
subsidies or discharge you of all obligations previously made.”
(Loménie, II, p. 109.)

In this transaction, the responsibility of the agent to the United
States had no consideration. “The advances of the government were simply
a guarantee to Beaumarchais against loss.” (Durand, p. 90.)

The difficulties and dangers of this undertaking have been admirably
summed up by M. de Loménie. “They were of a nature to cause any other
man than Beaumarchais to hesitate.... He threw himself into this,
however, with all his usual intrepidity, and the tenth of June, 1776, a
month before the United States had published their Declaration of
Independence, he signed the famous receipt which, kept secret under the
monarchy, delivered to the United States in 1794, under the republic,
occasioned a suit lasting fifty years, and to which we shall return. The
receipt read thus:

   “‘I have received of M. Duvergier, conformably to the orders of
   M. de Vergennes, on the date of the 5th of this month, the sum of
   one million, for which I shall render count to my said Sieur
   Comte de Vergennes.

                                          “‘Caron de Beaumarchais.

   “‘Good for a million of _livres tournois_.

   “‘At Paris, this 10th of June, 1776.’

“Two months later, Spain advanced the like sum, besides which
Beaumarchais had associated with himself numerous private individuals in
France and elsewhere, so that his first sending to the Americans
surpassed in itself alone, three millions.” (Loménie, II, p. 110.)

Early in June the vast mercantile house of Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.
was established at Paris, while agents, clerks, and employees of every
sort were installed at the center of operations, as well as at the
various sources of supplies and in the seaports, Beaumarchais remaining
the head and center of action, in every place.

It so happened at this time, that a complete change was being made in
the equipment of the French army, so that the arsenals and forts were
charged with munitions of war, which the government was willing to
dispose of at a nominal price.

Before the arrival of Beaumarchais on the scene of action, the Comte de
Vergennes had countenanced and furthered the operations begun by
Franklin before he left London. Among the agents employed by the latter
were the Brothers Mantaudoin of Nantes, who had undertaken the
transportation of munitions of war to the Americans. (Doniol, I, p.
373.)

Another agent and intimate friend of Franklin was a certain Doctor
Dubourg, a man more or less widely known as a scientist, but possessing
as well a decided taste for mercantile operations. He had entered
heartily into the cause of the Americans, and was very zealous in
forwarding munitions of war to the insurgents. He seems at the beginning
to have possessed to a considerable degree the confidence of the French
minister, who deigned to correspond with him in person, and to consult
him on several occasions. But as it became necessary “to act on a
grander scale, the intervention of the friend of Franklin was no longer
sufficient.” (Doniol, p. 374.) The “faithful and discreet agent” spoken
of in the _Réflexions_ had long been fixed in the mind of the Minister
of War. The good doctor who knew nothing of the relationship between the
famous author of the _Barbier de Séville_ and the French Government or
of his interest and services in the cause of American Independence, all
along had been secretly aspiring to a complete control of the
transactions. What succeeded in convincing him that he was the man
destined for the place was that early in June, 1776, Silas Deane, the
agent of the Secret Committee of Congress, arrived in Paris charged with
a letter from Franklin to his “dear good friend Barbeu Dubourg,” with
express instructions to regard this latter as “the best guide to seek
after and to follow.” (Doniol, V. I, p. 485.)

Elated at this mark of esteem shown him by the colonies, the good doctor
undertook to fulfill then to the letter the instructions of Congress and
to prevent Silas Deane from coming in contact with anyone but himself.
Deane soon realized that though “inspired with the best intentions in
the world,” the doctor would be a “hindrance rather than the essential
personage pointed out by Franklin.” (Doniol.) He therefore insisted so
strongly upon meeting the French minister that Dubourg was forced to
yield. The meeting took place the 17th day of July, 1776.

“It must be said of Silas Deane at this important meeting that he
fulfilled the intention of his mandate not only with intelligence, but
with a fecundity of reasoning which could only come from a vigilant
patriotism. All the impression which he could desire to produce and
which was hoped from his mission flowed from his replies.” (Doniol, V.
I, p.491.)

The Comte de Vergennes appeared to refuse to give the aid asked, but he
led Silas Deane to understand that a confidential agent would take the
matter in charge. This confidential agent was no other than
Beaumarchais.

Four days before this interview, the Doctor Dubourg had learned to his
great disappointment where the confidence of the minister had been
placed. Knowing nothing of the real situation, he thought to dissuade
the latter from his choice by attacking the private character of the man
who had usurped his place. The effect of his letter upon the Comte de
Vergennes can be judged from the fact that the latter immediately
communicated it to Beaumarchais himself, who was charged with the reply.

The Doctor wrote:

   “Monseigneur:

   “I have seen M. de Beaumarchais this morning and conferred with
   him without reserve. Everyone knows his wit, his talents, and no
   one renders more justice to his honesty, discretion and zeal for
   all that is good and grand; I believe him one of the most proper
   men in the world for political negotiations, but perhaps at the
   same time, the least proper for mercantile enterprises. He loves
   display, they say that he keeps women; he passes in a word for a
   spendthrift and there is not a merchant in France who has not
   this idea of him and who would not hesitate to enter into the
   smallest commercial dealings with him. Therefore, I was very much
   astonished when he informed me that you had charged him not only
   to aid you with his advice but had concentrated on him alone the
   _ensemble_ and the details of all the commercial operations....

   “I represented to him that in taking the immense traffic and
   excluding those who already had run so many dangers and endured
   so many fatigues ... it would be doing them a real wrong.... But
   I return to my first and principal reflection and implore you,
   Monseigneur, to weigh it well. Perhaps there are a hundred,
   perhaps a thousand persons in France with talents very inferior
   to those of M. de Beaumarchais, who would fill better your views,
   inspire more confidence, etc., etc....”

The reply of Beaumarchais, first published by M. de Loménie, and since
become so famous, is in the former’s most characteristic style. It had
its part to play as we shall see, in the trouble which came to its
author, and was partly responsible for the non-recognition of his
services by the American people. The good doctor always retained a
grudge against his brilliant and preferred rival. From him Doctor
Franklin imbibed in the beginning such a prejudice against the
indefatigable friend of the American cause, that he always avoided him
as much as possible. From the reply, a copy of which Beaumarchais sent
at the same time for the amusement of the ministers, we quote the
following:

                                          “Tuesday, June 16, 1776.

   “Eh! What has that to do with our affairs, that I am a man widely
   known, extravagant, and who keeps women? The women that I keep
   for the last twenty years are your very humble servants. They
   were five, four sisters and one niece. For three years two of
   these women are dead, to my great regret. I keep now only three,
   two sisters and a niece, which is still extravagant for a private
   individual like myself. But what would you have thought if,
   knowing me better, you should have learned that I push scandal so
   far as to keep men as well; two nephews, very young and good
   looking, even the very unhappy father who brought into the world
   this scandalous voluptuary? As for my display, that is even
   worse. For three years, finding lace and embroidered garments too
   petty for my vanity, have I not affected the pride of having my
   wrists always garnished with the most beautiful fine muslin? The
   most superb black cloth is not too elegant for me, at times I
   have been known to push dandyism so far as to wear silk when it
   was very hot, but I beg you, Monsieur, do not write these things
   to M. the Comte de Vergennes; you will end in losing for me his
   good opinion.

   “You have reasons for writing evil of me to him, without knowing
   me. I have mine for not being offended, although I have the honor
   of knowing you; you are, Monsieur, an honest man so inflamed with
   the desire to do a great good that you have thought you could
   permit yourself a little evil to arrive at it.

   “This thought is not exactly the thought of the _évangile_ but I
   have seen a good many persons accommodate themselves to it. But
   let us cease to speak lightly; I am not angry because M. de
   Vergennes is not a small man and I hold to his reply. That those
   to whom I apply for advances may distrust me I admit, but let
   those who are animated with true zeal for their common friends
   look twice before they alienate themselves from an honorable man
   who offers to render every service and to make every useful
   advance to those same friends. Do you understand me now,
   Monsieur?

   “I will have the honor of meeting with you this afternoon. I have
   also that of being with the highest consideration, Monsieur, your
   very humble and very obedient servitor, well known under the name
   of Roderigue Hortalès et Compagnie.”

It was on the 17th of July that Silas Deane and Beaumarchais met for the
first time. Both men recognized at once in the other the man for whom
each was looking. Both had warm, generous and unselfish natures; both
had their minds fixed upon one object alone, the procuring and sending
of aid as quickly as possible to the insurged colonies. In excusing
himself to Congress for discarding the services of the “dear, good
friend” of Franklin, Mr. Deane wrote: “I have been forced to discourage
my friend on seeing where the confidence of M. de Vergennes was placed.”
At the same time he does ample justice to the kindness and interest
manifested by Dubourg.

“M. Dubourg has continued,” wrote Deane, “to render me every assistance
in his power.... His abilities and connections are of the first class in
this kingdom and his zeal for the cause of the colonies is to be
described only by saying that at times they are in danger of urging him
beyond both.”

Beaumarchais, on his side, finding Silas Deane empowered by Congress to
act directly, ceased to communicate with Arthur Lee.

Already a change had come in their relationship. Returned to France and
finding the government bent upon another form of offering aid to the
Americans, it had become necessary to break his connections with Lee.
Unable to explain the true nature of the enterprise, being bound to
absolute secrecy, Beaumarchais wrote the 12th of June, 1776: “The
difficulties which I have found in my negotiations with the ministers
have forced me to form a company which will cause aid to reach your
friends immediately by the way of _Cap Français_.”

Naturally enough this meager information was very unsatisfactory to Lee;
more than this, he had hoped to play himself a principal rôle in the
enterprise (Spark’s _Life of Franklin_, p. 449).

From Beaumarchais he learned that Silas Deane had arrived from the
colonies empowered to treat with the ministers who had refused steadily
to permit his own appearance at Versailles; more than this, he learned
that Beaumarchais had entered at once into negotiations with the agent
of Congress and that he, Arthur Lee, was being consulted by no one.
“Enraged and disappointed,” continued Sparks, “Lee hurried to Paris,
where he endeavored to bring about a quarrel between Deane and
Beaumarchais. Failing in this, he returned to London, vexed in his
disappointment and furious against Deane.” To avenge himself he wrote to
the committee in congress that the two men were agreed together to
deceive at once the French Government and the Americans by changing what
the former meant to be a gratuitous offering into a commercial
speculation. (Silas Deane Papers.)

As can readily be seen, these letters arriving in Philadelphia before
any report from Deane, predisposed Congress—two of whose members were
brothers of Arthur Lee, against the measures Deane was taking with
Beaumarchais. But for the moment, no one interfered with their
operations and both men were too intent upon the all-important matter in
hand to speculate upon the possible results of the irritation of Doctor
Dubourg, or the anger and jealousy of Arthur Lee. Deane, however,
fearing lest the noise of Lee’s visit to Paris should offend the French
Minister, addressed to the latter the following letter:

   “Sir: I was informed this morning of the arrival of Arthur Lee.
   This was a surprise to me, as I know of no particular affair that
   might call him here, and considering the extreme jealousy of the
   British ministry at this time and that Mr. Lee was the agent of
   the colonies in Great Britain, and known to be such, I could wish
   unless he had received some particular orders from the United
   Colonies that he had suspended his visit, as I know not otherwise
   how he can serve me or my affairs—with profound gratitude I say
   it—now in as favorable a course as the situation of the times
   will admit. I have the honor to be,

                                                    “Silas Deane.”

(From Spark’s _Dip. Correspondence_, p. 40.)

Immediately after their first meeting, Beaumarchais had addressed a
letter to Deane of which the following is an extract:

                                             “Paris, July 18, 1776.

   “I have the honor to inform you that for a long while I have
   formed the project of aiding the brave Americans to shake off the
   yoke of England.... I have spoken already of my plans with a
   gentleman in London (Arthur Lee), who says he is very much
   attached to America; but our correspondence since I left England
   has been followed with difficulty and in cipher; I have received
   no reply to my last letter, in which I fixed certain points of
   this great and important affair. Since you are clothed, Monsieur,
   with a character which permits me to have confidence in you, I
   shall be very well satisfied to recommence, in a more certain
   and regular manner, a negotiation which till now has been barely
   touched....”

Silas Deane replied:

   “Paris, Hôtel Grand-Villars, July 20, 1776.

   “Monsieur:

   “Conformably with your demand in our interview yesterday, I
   enclose a copy of my commission and an extract of my
   instructions, which will give you the certitude that I am
   authorized to make the acquisitions for which I addressed myself
   to you....

   “In regard to the credit which we demand and which I hope to
   obtain from you, I hope that a long one will not be necessary. A
   year is the most that my compatriots are in the habit of asking;
   and Congress having engaged a great quantity of tobacco in
   Virginia and Maryland which will be embarked as soon as ships can
   be procured, I do not doubt but considerable returns in nature
   will be made within six months, and the whole be paid for within
   the year. I shall press Congress for this in my letters.
   Nevertheless, events are uncertain, and our commerce is exposed
   to suffer; but I hope that whatever comes you will soon receive
   sufficient returns to be enabled to wait for the rest. In case
   that any sum whatever remains due after the expiration of the
   accepted credit, it is of course understood that the usual
   interest will be paid you for the sum.

   “I am with all the respect and attachment possible, your, etc.

                                                    “Silas Deane.”

In his reply to this letter Beaumarchais after accepting the conditions
offered by the agent of Congress ends thus:

   “As I believe I have to do with a virtuous people, it will
   suffice for me to keep an exact account of all my advances.
   Congress will be master to decide whether I shall be paid in
   merchandise at their usual value at the time of their arrival or
   to receive them at the buying price, the delays and assurances
   with a commission proportional to the pains and care, which is
   impossible to fix to-day. I intend to serve your country as
   though it were my own, and I hope to find in the friendship of a
   generous people the true recompense for my work which I
   consecrate to them with pleasure.”

In a lengthy letter written the 24th of July, 1776, the agent of
Congress set forth the difficulties of the enterprise in which they are
engaged.

He manifested also with warmth his grateful recognition of the services
of Beaumarchais. He wrote to him:

                                          “Paris, July 24th, 1776.

   “Monsieur:

   “I have read with attention the letter which you have done me the
   favor to write the 22nd, and I think that your propositions for
   the regulation of the price of merchandise are just and
   equitable. The generous confidence which you place in the virtue
   and justice of my constituents inspires me with the greatest joy
   and gives me the most flattering hopes for the success of this
   enterprise, for their satisfaction as well as yours, and permit
   me to assure you again that the United Colonies will take the
   most effective measures to send you returns, and to justify in
   all respects the sentiments which animate you toward them.

                                                    “Silas Deane.”

Nothing could be clearer and more explicit than the understanding
arrived at between Beaumarchais and Deane. The latter possessed full
power to act, and the former relied unreservedly upon the good faith of
the American Congress. In the meantime Deane wrote, introducing his new
friend to the Committee of Secret Correspondence.

                                           “Paris, August 18, 1776.

   “ ... I was directed to apply for arms, etc., for 25,000 men....
   This I wished to get of the ministry direct, but they evaded it
   and I am now in treaty for procuring them through the Agency of
   M. Chaumont and M. Beaumarchais, on credit of eight months, from
   the time of their delivery. If I effect this as I undoubtedly
   shall, I must rely on the remittance being made this fall and
   winter, without fail, or the credit of the colonies will
   suffer....” (Spark’s _Diplomatic Correspondence_, V. I, p. 28.)

Three days earlier he had written, “I find M. de Beaumarchais possessed
of the entire confidence of the ministry; he is a man of wit and genius,
and a considerable writer on comic and political subjects. All my
supplies come through his hands, which at first greatly discouraged my
friends....”

At the same time Beaumarchais, inflamed with zeal for the cause of
liberty, and wholly unconscious of the effect which his sincere but
fantastic letters would have upon the unexpansive nature of the men to
whom they were addressed, wrote the following to Congress:

                                          “Paris, August 18, 1776.

   “Gentlemen:

   “The respectful esteem which I bear towards that brave people who
   so well defend their liberty under your conduct has induced me to
   form a plan concurring in this great work by establishing an
   extensive commercial house ... to supply you with necessaries of
   every sort that can be useful for the honorable war in which you
   are engaged. Your deputies, gentlemen, will find in me a sure
   friend, an asylum in my home, money in my coffers, and every
   means of facilitating their operations whether of an open, or of
   a secret nature. I will, so far as possible, remove all obstacles
   that may oppose your wishes, from the politics of Europe.... The
   secrecy necessary in some parts of the operations which I have
   undertaken for your service, requires also on your part a formal
   resolution that all vessels and their demands should be directed
   constantly to our house alone, in order that there may be no idle
   chatting or loss of time, two things that are the ruin of
   affairs....

   “ ... I shall facilitate your unloading, selling, or disposing of
   that which I do not wish.... For instance, five American vessels
   have just arrived in the port of Bordeaux laden with salt fish;
   though this merchandise coming from strangers is prohibited in
   our ports, yet as soon as your deputy had told me that these
   vessels were sent to him by you to raise money by the sale for
   aiding him in his purchases in Europe, I took such care that I
   secretly obtained from the government an order for the landing
   without notice being taken....

   “I shall have a correspondent in each seaport town, who on the
   arrival of your vessels shall wait on the captain and offer every
   service in his power.... Everything which you wish to arrive
   safely in any country in Europe ... shall go with great
   punctuality through me, and this will save much anxiety and many
   delays. I request you, gentlemen, to send me next spring, if it
   is possible, ten or twelve thousand hogsheads or more if you can
   of tobacco of the best quality from Virginia.

   “You will understand well that my commerce with you is carried on
   in Europe; that it is in the great ports of Europe that I make
   and take returns. However well founded my house may be and though
   I have appropriated many millions to your trade alone, yet it
   would be impossible for me to support it, if all the dangers of
   the sea, of exports and imports were not entirely at your
   risks....

   “Your deputy shall receive as soon as possible full power and
   authority to accept what I shall deliver to him, to receive my
   accounts, examine them, make payments upon them or enter into
   engagements which you shall be bound to ratify as the head of the
   brave people to whom I am devoted. In short, you may always treat
   of your interests directly with me.

   “Notwithstanding the open opposition which the King of France and
   his ministers show, and ought to show, to the violation of
   foreign treaties ... I dare promise you, gentlemen, that my
   indefatigable zeal shall never be wanting to clear up all
   difficulties, soften prohibitions, and, in short, facilitate all
   operations of commerce....

   “One thing can never diminish; it is the avowed and ardent zeal
   which I have in serving you to the utmost of my power....

   “Look upon my house, then, gentlemen, henceforth, as the chief of
   all useful operations to you in Europe and my person as one of
   the most zealous partisans of your cause, the soul of your
   success, and a man most deeply impressed with the respectful
   esteem with which I have the honor to be, etc.

                                      “Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.”

“It must be admitted,” says Loménie, “that the letters of Beaumarchais
were curious enough by their medley of patriotism and commercialism,
both equally sincere with him, to inspire distrust in the minds already
prejudiced. Imagine serious Yankees, who nearly all before having made
war had been merchants, receiving masses of stuff, embarked often in
secret, during the night, and whose bills presented in consequence
certain irregularities, accompanied with letters in which Beaumarchais
associated protestations of enthusiasm, offers of limitless services,
political counsels and demands for tobacco, indigo, and salt fish.

“The calculating minds of the Yankees were naturally inclined to think
that a being so ardent and fantastic, if he really existed, was playing
a commercial comedy concurred in by the government and that one might
with all security of conscience utilize his remittances, read his
amplifications, and dispense with sending him tobacco,” which, as we
shall soon see, was exactly what happened.

Infinite difficulties and complications, however, were to arise before
even the first shipments could leave the ports of France, and in August
the cargoes were not yet collected.

The sixteenth of August Beaumarchais wrote to Vergennes:

   “It is decided that all vessels coming from America shall be
   addressed to the house of Hortalès.... So many things must be
   carried on together without counting the manufacture of cloth and
   linen, that I am forced to take on more workers. This affair
   _politico-commerçante_ is becoming so immense that I shall drown
   myself in details as well as the few aids which I have employed
   up to the present time, if I do not add more. Some will travel,
   some reside in the seaports, the manufactories, etc.

   “I have promised tobacco to the Farmers-General, and I ask it of
   the Americans. Their hemp will be a good commodity. At last I
   begin to see the way clear for my business. The only thing which
   I do not see are those fatal letters-patent of which I have
   neither wind nor news.... M. de Maurepas tells me every time he
   sees me, ‘It is attended to, it is finished.’ ... I should have
   had them Tuesday. Here it is Friday, but the letters have not
   come. At the end of the session of parliament this delay of three
   days makes me lose three months, because of vacation. I am not
   angry but distressed to see my condition so equivocal and my
   future uncertain.” (Doniol, V. I, p. 513-14.)

As shown in the above letter, Beaumarchais while beginning his
extraordinary operations for the Americans was not forgetful of his own
interests. He was still a civilly degraded man with no solid basis upon
which to build. Gudin, in his history of Beaumarchais, says: “Arriving
from London, May, 1776, he presented a petition to the council in order
to obtain letters of relief; that is, letters of the king by which it
was permitted him to appeal from the judgment rendered against him,
although the delay accorded by law had long expired.

“The development of his projects called him to the west coast of France;
he did not wish to go until his request was admitted.

“‘Go all the same,’ M. de Maurepas said to him. ‘The council will
pronounce very well without you.’”

The projects alluded to by Gudin were, of course, his mercantile
operations for supplying the Americans with munitions of war. But so
well did Beaumarchais guard his secret, that his dearest friend knew as
little of the real nature of his enterprise as the rest of the world. In
his visit to the ports of France during the summer of 1776, Gudin
accompanied him. Their reception at Bordeaux is described by the latter.

Here as elsewhere, Beaumarchais hid his real occupation under the show
of seeking amusement.

“When it was known,” says Gudin, “of our arrival, invitations poured in
upon us from every side; the women received him as the most amiable of
men, the merchants as the most intelligent, the crowds as the most
extraordinary; we passed several days in the midst of festivities....
All the while Beaumarchais was preparing new commercial combinations.

“One evening, on entering, he found several letters from Paris; he read
them while I was preparing for bed, hurried by fatigue to repose myself.
I asked him if he was satisfied with his news.

“‘Very well,’ he said to me without the least emotion. I was soon
asleep. In the morning I felt myself pulled by the arm; I wakened,
recognized him and asked if he were ill.

“‘No,’ he replied, ‘but in half an hour we leave for Paris.’

“‘_Eh, pourquoi?_ What has happened? Have you been sent for?’

“‘The council has rejected my demands.’

“‘_Ah, ciel!_ and you said nothing to me last evening?’

“‘No, my friend, I did not wish to disturb your night. It was enough
that I did not sleep. I have been thinking all night of what there is
for me to do. I have decided, my plan is formed and I go to execute
it....’

“Sixty hours later we were in Paris.

“‘Eh, what,’ he said to M. de Maurepas, who was somewhat surprised to
see him so promptly, ‘while I was running to the extremities of France
to look after the affairs of the king, you lose mine at Versailles.’

“‘It is a blunder of Mormesnil (the minister of justice). Go find him,
tell him that I want him, and come back together.’

“They explained themselves all three. The matter was taken up under
another form, the council judged differently, the request was granted
and letters of relief obtained the 12th of August, 1776.”

This, however, was but the first step. The letters patent simply allowed
Beaumarchais the privilege of having his case brought up a second time
for judgment. At this juncture, a new difficulty presented itself. In
the words of Loménie: “It was the end of August; the parliament was
about to enter on its vacation and it did not wish to take up the matter
until afterwards. But Beaumarchais did not adjourn so easily anything
once begun. He went again to M. de Maurepas, and persuaded that one is
never better served than by himself he did with the first minister what
we have seen him do with the king. He drew a note for the first
president of Parliament and for the solicitor-general, had M. de
Maurepas to sign two copies of the note and send one to each of the
above officials.” The notes ran thus:

                           “Versailles, this 27th of August, 1776.

   “That part of the affairs of the king with which M. de
   Beaumarchais is charged, requires, Monsieur, that he make several
   voyages very shortly. He fears to leave Paris before his case has
   been tried. He assures me that it can be done before vacation. I
   do not ask any favor as to the ground of the affair, but only
   celerity for the judgment; you will oblige him who has the honor
   to be, very truly yours, etc.

                                                       “Maurepas.”

In the same way, Beaumarchais served himself through Monsieur de
Vergennes, obtaining with the same facility the favor which he desired.
He wrote:

                                               “August 29th, 1776.

   “I had the honor of seeing M. le Comte de St.-Germain
   yesterday.... I was very well received.... After two hours’
   conversation, he wished to keep me to dinner. But can a miserable
   unfortunate who is running after the solution of his lawsuit take
   time to dine? I left him, but I have hope that he will be an
   additional protector. If all is not well, at least all is not
   bad. I have drawn up a letter intended to correct the fault
   committed.

   “It is your reply to his letter. Pardon, M. de Comte, if I have
   taken the liberty of acting as your secretary. For so long I have
   been attached to you by all possible titles, if you approve of
   the letter there is only a signature and an envelope necessary.”
   (Doniol, V. I, p. 574.)

M. de Loménie continued: “This was still not sufficient for
Beaumarchais. He wished the Attorney-General Seguier to speak and to be
eloquent in his favor; for this he wrote a letter to Maurepas,
accompanied by another note, rather more expressive, for M. Seguier, a
note which the minister copied with the same docility as the preceding
one.” It runs as follows:

   “Versailles, this 30th of August, 1776.

   “I learn, Monsieur, by M. de Beaumarchais, that if you have not
   the goodness to speak on his affair it will be impossible for him
   to obtain a judgment before the 7th of September. That part of
   the affair of the king with which M. de Beaumarchais is entrusted
   requires that he make a voyage very soon; he fears to leave Paris
   before he is restored to his estate as citizen; it has been so
   long now that he suffers, and his desire in this respect is truly
   legitimate. I ask no favor as to the ground of the affair, but
   you will oblige me infinitely if you will contribute towards
   having him judged before vacation.

   “I have the honor to be, etc. Maurepas.”

The trial took place. Beaumarchais chose for his defense a lawyer,
Target, who had remained firm during the entire existence of the
parliament Maupeou, refusing to plead before it. “Beaumarchais,” says
Loménie, “always faithful to his taste for _mise en scène_, wrote him a
letter which circulated everywhere and which commenced with the words,
‘The Martyr Beaumarchais to the Virgin Target.’”

An immense concourse of people thronged the judgment hall the day
appointed for the trial; and when, after the pleading of Target and the
recommendation of Seguier, the restored parliament annulled by a solemn
decree the decree of the parliament Maupeou, the wildest excitement
prevailed. Beaumarchais immediately addressed the following letter to
Vergennes:

                           “Paris, this Friday, September 6, 1776.

   “M. le Comte,

   “I have just been judged, _déblâmé_, amidst a universal concourse
   of applause. Never did so unfortunate a citizen receive greater
   honor. I hasten to announce to you the news, begging you to place
   my gratitude at the feet of the king. I am so trembling with joy
   that my hand can scarcely write all the respectful sentiments
   with which I am, Monsieur le Comte, your very humble and very
   obedient servitor, Beaumarchais.

   “Do me the kindness, M. le Comte, to announce this very happy
   news to M. de Maurepas and to M. de Sartine. I have four hundred
   persons about me who applaud and embrace me and make an infernal
   noise, which seems to me superb harmony.”

The happy man was carried in triumph amid the enthusiastic shouts of the
populace from the great chamber of justice to his carriage.

The next day he published a discourse which he had intended to deliver,
but from which he had been dissuaded.

It will be remembered that Beaumarchais had been consulted by the
ministers in regard to the principles on which the new parliament should
be recalled, and that they had not dared to carry out the justice and
the liberality of his ideas. Although as we have seen, Beaumarchais
utilized the ministers pretty much as he desired, he did so without in
the least compromising his own freedom.

In this daring address he combated the existing abuses of the present
parliament, as he before had done those of the Parliament Maupeou.

“He contributed,” says Loménie, “without being conscious of it, to
prepare the ruin of the parliament which applauded him. He combated
their abuses and caused to enter into the minds of the masses the
necessity for judicial reform.”

M. de Loménie says elsewhere: “Beaumarchais at this moment, reinstated
in his rights as a citizen, enjoying the brilliant success of his
_Barbier de Séville_, already invested with the intimate confidence of
the government in the American question; well received at court, popular
in the city; directing the dramatic authors in their struggle for
literary liberty, might be considered as a man who had at last conquered
evil fortune; nevertheless, he was not yet disengaged from the fetters
of his past. His first suit with the Comte de la Blache, which had been
the origin of his trials and of his celebrity, existed still in the
midst of his triumphs, and held in check his fortunes and his honor.”

This man, confident of the ministry in the affairs of the United States,
the popular author of the _Barbier de Séville_, was under the blow of
an iniquitous sentence which declared him indirectly a forger, and
placed his goods at the discretion of an enemy.

In 1775, the first judgment had been revoked and the affair sent before
the parliament which met at Aix in the south of France.

The zeal which we have seen Beaumarchais display in carrying rapidly to
a successful termination the matter of his rehabilitation was now turned
toward the _retarding_ of the judgment in the other case.

The Comte de la Blache, on the other hand, vexed at seeing the rapidly
rising fortunes of his adversary, endeavored by every means in his power
to hasten the decision. Overwhelmed with the multiplicity of his
undertakings, Beaumarchais appealed to M. de Vergennes, urging that the
case be allowed to stand in _statu quo_ for the present. In a letter
from the minister, dated June 2, 1776, the following passage occurs:

   “I saw yesterday, in relation to your affair at Aix, M. le Guard
   of the Seals, who immediately gave orders to write to M. de la
   Tour, the first president of the tribunal, to the effect that all
   ultimate procedure should be suspended.... You know, Monsieur,
   the sincerity of my interest for all that concerns you.

                                                   “de Vergennes.”

Thus with a comparatively tranquil mind, the indefatigable agent of the
government was able to turn his attention to the gigantic commercial
enterprise which he already had well in hand.

We shall not, therefore, be surprised to see him rise above all adverse
circumstances, and notwithstanding the disloyalty of some of his
agents, the fury of the English Ambassador, the opposition of the
government itself, actually succeed in landing immense cargoes on the
American coast in time for the great decisive campaign of 1777.

[Illustration: Wm. Carmichaël]



CHAPTER XIX


_”I should never have completed what I have but for the generous, the
indefatigable and spirited exertions of Monsieur de Beaumarchais, to
whom the United States are in every account greatly indebted, more so
than to any other person on this side the water.”_

_Silas Deane to Congress, November 29, 1776._


   Suspicions of English Aroused Through Indiscretions of Friends of
     America—Treachery of du Coudray—Counter Order Issued Against
     Shipments of Beaumarchais—Franklin’s Arrival—England’s Attempt to
     Make Peace Stirs France—Counter Order Recalled—Ten Ships Start
     Out—Beaumarchais Cleared by Vergennes.


While Beaumarchais, through the intervention of the Ministry, was
bringing his own personal interests to a successful termination, he was
at the same time carrying vigorously forward his operations in the cause
of America. These operations were the most difficult. In the words of
Loménie: “It was a question of an officially prohibited commerce, which
prohibition was under the vigilant supervision of the English
Ambassador,—and could receive the official support of the French
government only on condition that it was carefully hidden. The least
indiscretion, the slightest diplomatic embarrassment occasioned by the
affair would immediately transform this support into persecution. It was
under these conditions that the author of the _Barbier de Séville_
was obliged to extract without noise and in small quantities, from the
different arsenals of the state, 200 pieces of cannon, mortars, bombs,
bullets, 25,000 guns, 100 tons of powder; to manufacture the stuffs
necessary for the equipment of 25,000 men, collect all these objects in
the different ports and send them to the insurgents without arousing the
suspicion of the English Ambassador.”

It was, however, humanly impossible that suspicions should not be
aroused; too many people were interested in the cause of America; too
many were eager to aid in the struggle of the colonies for liberty.
Especially was the _cher bon ami_ of Dr. Franklin constantly bringing
things to the brink of exposure through his officious intermeddling.
Although he knew nothing of the real basis upon which the commercial
house, Roderigue Hortalès et Cie., was founded, yet he was very well
aware that Beaumarchais had supplanted him in the confidence of the
ministers. Forced to see himself set aside, Dubourg none the less
continued collecting supplies on his own account, which he forwarded to
the insurgents. His indiscreet zeal led him often into grave
difficulties.

“With the best intentions in the world,” says Doniol, “he was in danger
of interfering with, rather than aiding the cause he hoped to serve.”

The letters of Beaumarchais to Vergennes during this period constantly
revert to this theme, “Dubourg must be made to keep silence and not to
compromise the ministry.” “If,” he writes in another place, “while we
are closing the doors on one side, someone opens the windows on the
other, it is impossible that the secret does not escape.” At length
quite out of patience at some new and serious indiscretion which the
good doctor in his simplicity had told to Beaumarchais himself, the
latter wrote to Vergennes, “Is there then no way to stop the mouth of
that cruel gossiper?... As he told me I could scarcely refrain from
dealing him a blow, but I restrained myself, simply turning my back and
walking away.... I depend upon you, M. le Comte, to deliver us from this
fatal and mischief-making agent.”

But Dubourg was by no means the only person interested in the cause of
America who was sowing snares in the pathway of Beaumarchais and of
Deane. At the worst, the good doctor was only indiscreet, he was never
guilty of that personal ambition which in times of great crisis delights
to bring ruin upon the schemes of others, and which uses all its power
to thwart those enterprises which it cannot lead. Many enemies of this
latter type were destined soon to manifest themselves. On the 1st of
October, 1776, Silas Deane wrote to Congress of a certain Mr. Hopkins of
Maryland, then in Paris, who without official authority was interesting
himself in the same cause. “Offended at some supposed personal slight,
he formed the dark design,” says Deane, “of defeating at one stroke my
whole prospect as to supplies.... However thunderstruck I was, as well
as my friend Monsieur Beaumarchais at this treachery ... we exerted
ourselves and truth prevailed.... It would be too tedious to recount
what I have met with in this way.... I do not mention a single
difficulty with one complaining thought for myself.... I am happy in
being so far successful, and that the machinations of my enemies, or
rather the enemies of my country ... have been brought to nought.”

But perhaps the most dangerous enemy in the pathway of Deane and
Beaumarchais was a man in whom from the first they had reposed the most
entire confidence. This was Trouson du Coudray, a French officer of rank
and genius, a personal friend of the minister of war, the Comte St.
Germain, who had been the military preceptor of le Comte d’Artois. He
had afterwards been stationed at the garrison of Metz, where he was
associated with the drawing out of old arms and of replacing them by
ones of more recent date. As it was precisely these old arms which the
French Government was willing to part with to Hortalès et Cie.,—at a
reasonable price, du Coudray was admirably placed to further the
proceedings of its agent. Had he been truly disinterested in his
proffered services, his coöperation would have been invaluable. As a
matter of fact, “this officer,” says Doniol, “certainly capable, was one
of those who whatever employment is made of their services, look first
to the personal advantage they can draw from them. Having fascinated
Deane and Beaumarchais, he succeeded in having himself named one of the
staff officers of artillery and was to go out to the colonies in command
of the chief vessel of Hortalès et Cie., the _Amphitrite_. Deane at once
wrote to Congress, announcing the great acquisition which he had made.
He bestowed the highest praise upon du Coudray, but at the same time
evinced a fear lest Congress might consider that he had overstepped the
bounds of his commission in appointing him to so high a rank. He excused
himself for having been forced to confer upon the officer special marks
of favor in order to secure his services, which, he felt sure, would, in
the end, justify him for the step he had taken. He humbly expressed a
hope that Congress would not consider as too high the salary he had
promised, and begged it to confirm the wisdom of his choice.”

Du Coudray was not long in showing himself unworthy of the confidence
thus reposed in him. It was this unfortunate step of Deane, afterwards
imputed to him as a crime by Arthur Lee, which was the chief cause of
his subsequent recall and the semi-disgrace inflicted upon him.
Beaumarchais, being as deeply inculpated as Deane, fell equally in the
opinion of American patriots. But as yet, no foreshadowing of coming
events had dampened the zeal of the colonial commissioner, or of his
indefatigable friend. On October 15, 1776 (Spark’s _Dip. Corres._, I, p.
51), a contract was signed M. de Monthieu, Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.
and Silas Deane, for furnishing armed vessels and merchandise on
condition that risks and perils be on account of the U. S. and that “in
case the vessels be detained in American ports more than two months,
without returning them laden with the cargoes proposed, wages and
expenses shall be paid by the United States.”

While Deane was thus busily engaged in carrying out the commission with
which he was entrusted, he was being left, as far as Congress was
concerned, absolutely without support or approval. Communication between
the two continents was slow in those days, and it has been shown already
that before Deane was able to send any definite information to Congress
of his reception by the French Government, Lee had forestalled him by
giving that body his own private and unfounded interpretation of the
relation entered into between the commissioner and the agent of the
French Government. When Lee’s letter reached America, Congress was
deeply engrossed with the weightier matters which were forcing
themselves upon its attention, owing to the decisive step which it was
about to take in declaring itself free from British rule. The matter,
therefore, was allowed to rest in _statu quo_ for the present. Congress
preferred to await developments before setting on foot any
investigations, and so, though Deane continued to give frequent and full
accounts of all his transactions, no reply was ever made to any of his
letters. This rendered his situation cruel in the extreme. Wholly
unsuspicious by nature, it never occurred to him that an enemy was
busily at work, undermining his character and poisoning the minds of his
compatriots in regard to the disinterestedness of the motives which
actuated him. His irritation began at last to manifest itself. “For
heaven’s sake,” he wrote in a letter to Congress, dated October 1, 1776
(Spark’s _Diplomatic Correspondence_, Vol. II), “if you mean to have any
connection with this kingdom, be more assiduous in getting your letters
here. I know not where the blame lies, but it must lie heavy somewhere,
when vessels are suffered to sail from Philadelphia and elsewhere, right
down to the middle of August, without a single line. This circumstance
was near proving a mortal blow to my whole proceedings.”

October 17th of the same year he says:

   “Warlike preparations are daily making in this kingdom and in
   Spain. I need not urge the importance of immediate remittances
   towards paying for the large quantity of stores I have engaged
   for, and I depend that this winter will not be suffered to slip
   away unimproved. I have the honor to be, etc.

                                                    “Silas Deane.”

By the end of November, notwithstanding the delays and discouragements
encountered by the agents of the two governments, several vessels had
been loaded with supplies and were about to set sail. Silas Deane wrote
to Congress, Nov. 29th, 1776.

   “I should never have completed what I have, but for the generous,
   the indefatigable, and spirited exertions of M. Beaumarchais, to
   whom the United States are on every account greatly indebted,
   more so than to any other person on this side the water ...
   therefore I am confident you will make the earliest and most
   ample remittances.” After giving further details, he proceeds: “A
   nephew of Beaumarchais, a young gentleman of family, education
   and spirit, makes a voyage to America with M. Ducoudray (in the
   various documents, the name of this officer appears, sometimes
   written as above by Mr. Deane, but more often ‘du Coudray,’ which
   is the correct form) and is ambitious of serving his first
   campaign in your cause. I recommend him therefore to your
   particular patronage and protection, as well on account of the
   great merits of his uncle, as on that of his being a youth of
   genius and spirit.... I have confidently assured his uncle that
   he will receive protection and paternal advice from you, and am
   happy in knowing that you will fulfill my engagements on that
   score.

   “I cannot in a letter do full justice to M. de Beaumarchais, for
   his address and assiduity in our cause. His interest and
   influence, which are great, have been exerted to the utmost, in
   the cause of the United States.”

On the 3rd of December, 1776, in a letter to John Jay written when the
last measures were being taken for the despatching of the vessels
equipped by Hortalès et Cie., Deane thus expressed himself:

   “If my letters arrive safely they will give you some idea of my
   situation:—without intelligence, without orders, and without
   remittances, yet boldly plunging into contracts, engagements,
   negotiations, hourly hoping that something will arrive from
   America.

   “By M. du Coudray I send 30,000 guns, 200 pieces of brass cannon,
   30 mortars, 4,000 tents, and clothing for 30,000 men, with 200
   tons of gunpowder, lead balls, etc., etc., by which you may judge
   we have some friends here. A war in Europe is inevitable. The
   eyes of all are on you, and the fear of your giving up, or
   accommodating is the greatest obstacle I have to contend with.
   Monsieur Beaumarchais has been my minister in effect, as this
   court is extremely cautious and I now advise you to attend
   carefully to the articles sent you. I could not examine them
   here. I was promised they should be good, and at the lowest
   price, and that from persons in such station that had I hesitated
   it might have ruined my affairs....

   “Large remittances are necessary for your credit, and the
   enormous price of tobacco, of rice, of flour and many other
   articles, gives you an opportunity of making your remittances to
   very good advantage. Twenty thousand hogsheads of tobacco are
   wanted immediately for this kingdom, and more for other parts of
   Europe.” ... (_Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay_,
   1890, p. 97.)

In spite of the remonstrances of Deane, Congress continued deaf and dumb
in regard to their Commissioner, neither condemning nor approving his
acts, but passing all by with like indifference. In the meantime,
Beaumarchais was pushing forward his gigantic operations, being taken
with “a sort of drunkenness of activity and of confidence in himself,
which,” says Doniol, “turned him at times from precautions. He was at
this juncture, really a political agent. He had indicated to M. de
Maurepas a plan of finance which would enable France to arm itself,
without increasing taxation, and the mission had been given him to study
the execution of the plan with M. Necker, who had been called to the
management of the Treasury. He had discussed with Deane, perhaps
somewhat with Vergennes, the creation of a bank, in view of making loans
on the lands of America.” (_Doniol_ II, p. 57.)

Extracts from a Memoir by Beaumarchais, addressed to Vergennes, in
regard to a loan to be made to the Congress: “Supposing always,” he
wrote, “that your intention is neither to let America perish nor to
force her to arrange with England through lack of the succor which is
indispensable for her defense, if you can procure it; supposing also
that my work and my ministry have not ceased to be agreeable to you; I
have found a means of supporting the Americans without disbursing
considerable sums, which you do not possess, but which the Americans
cannot dispense with.

“If you look upon me as the important advocate of that nation before the
Ministry of France,—an employment which I have assumed because it was as
noble as it was useful to my country; knowing that I have not done this
without your secret agreement, you must hear me to-day, even aid me, if
you do not wish to leave without results a plan which is without
danger.” After developing the details of his scheme for rendering more
effective aid to the Americans, Beaumarchais continues, “As you see, M.
le Comte, this is only an extension adroitly given, to that which I have
been doing for the last year. For the past two weeks I have been buried
in the meditations and the correspondence which this work requires.
To-day I am in condition to treat secretly with you and M. de Maurepas.
Any evening which you wish, I will attend upon your orders.”

Things were moving, however, far too slowly for the impatient spirit of
Beaumarchais. The 14th of October he had written to Vergennes.

   “Every time that I think how we hold in our hands the destiny of
   the world, and that we have the power to change the system of
   things—and when I see so many advantages, so much glory ready to
   escape, I regret infinitely not to have more influence over the
   resolutions of the councils, and not to be able to multiply
   myself, so as to prevent the evil on one hand, and aid the good
   on the other. I know too well your patriotism to fear offending
   you in speaking thus....

   “I expect to be at Fontainebleau Thursday at the latest. Until
   then I shall not sleep until I have finished the work on Finance,
   promised to M. de Maurepas.”

Obstacles of every kind were being thrown in the path of Beaumarchais,
though he remained ignorant of their source. He continued to insist that
the government permit him to carry forward what it had encouraged him to
commence. His letters of this period testify to “a consciousness of
being hampered, a desire to act, fear of being too presumptive in his
demands, and intentions of rendering effective service.” (_Doniol_ II,
p. 58.) He thought the delays came from Maurepas, whose coldness had
distressed him, so he urged Vergennes to plead for him. “If I were not
certain,” he wrote, November 12, 1776, “that I do not displease you in
desiring you to raise as far as possible the obstacles which retard my
course, I would not have the indiscretion to make observations when it
seems I ought simply to submit. But I know that you are as much annoyed
as I by all that tends to spoil my plans. This idea consoles me and
enables me not to lose patience....” “Do not,” he pleads, “do not, M. le
Comte, look upon my impatience as insubordination, it is nothing but
zeal.” Then he proceeded to urge Vergennes to send him an order through
the minister of war, the Comte de St. Germain, that there be delivered
to him 2,000 hundredweight of powder, which would enable him to set
sail, and he ended by saying how he had “_le cœur bien serré_ to see how
things are going or in reality, not going.”

The fall of New York offered an opportunity for Beaumarchais to press
his solicitations, urging that the Americans had been beaten only from
lack of supplies. “If I were asking a personal favor,” he wrote to
Vergennes, “I would have patience, but I shall lose it if you do not
come to my assistance.” On the second of October he had written:
“Everything about me follows me with talk and does all that it can to
ruin me. Across all these bitter things I walk with assurance to my
ends; unless a pistol shot stops me, I will be found ready to treat with
all who present themselves. My zeal and my disinterestedness are the
basis of my defense. I have no important paper about me—everything is
secure.”

In the midst of so many hidden dangers Beaumarchais was soon made to
feel a still graver one. The French government suddenly began to thwart
all his operations, and this without a word of warning or explanation.
The fact was that the suspicions of the Court of St. James had been
thoroughly aroused, and, pressed by the English Ambassador, the minister
had been forced to take a stand. The fifteenth of November the English
Court notified the Spanish Ambassador that everything was known, and the
twenty-second of the same month, they expressed themselves still more
strongly through other avenues. Vergennes was informed that the aid
being rendered by France was no longer a secret. Something had to be
done immediately to allay the fears of the English, and from this had
arisen the apparent hostility of the ministers.

Even had there been no one directly to blame for these disclosures,
entire secrecy still could not have been maintained. The very
multiplicity of the operations, “the goings and comings of Deane and
Beaumarchais and their intermediaries, the confidence that was inspired
by the support of the government leading to indiscretions, all this
divulged the acts.” (_Doniol_ II, 35.) More than this, officers
enrolled, or those who wished to be, were spread about in the
cafés and public places, in Paris or the seaports, awaiting the moment
of embarkation. All these men, “infatuated and needy,” were under the
control of du Coudray, who was expecting to sail on the largest of
Beaumarchais’s ships, _l’Amphitrite_, a vessel of 480 tons, which
already had received its cargo, and was only awaiting the presence of
the officer in order to set sail. For some unaccountable reason, he had
returned to Versailles without giving any notice. He remained there for
more than a week, causing a delay which threatened to spoil everything.
Beaumarchais, supposing that the ministry was at fault, wrote to
Vergennes in the following impatient manner: “Everything has gone,
everything is waiting. Why cannot I have the whole management of the
affair? Then nothing would be delayed and my vessels would already be in
America.” The truth was that du Coudray, relying upon his powerful
support at court, had gone to Versailles in order to succeed in escaping
if possible from the hands of Beaumarchais, so as not to go over as his
envoy. He had all along been lengthening “by every means in his power
the delay in getting off, had sown discontent among the enrolled,
sending away such as he could not gain, had encouraged complaint,
confided the place of embarkation to indiscreet persons, and then threw
upon Beaumarchais the blame of the noise which he himself had made.”
(_Doniol_ II, 61.) In addition to all the rest, Beaumarchais was guilty
of a particular indiscretion of his own. Having gone the 6th of
December, 1776, to Havre, under the assumed name of Durand, in order to
superintend, without arousing suspicion, the despatching of three of his
vessels, the _Amphitrite_, _La Seine_, _La Romaine_, he could not resist
the temptation of busying himself at the same time with his literary
productions. Displeased with the way in which his famous comedy, _Le
Barbier de_ _Séville_, was being performed, he imprudently collected
the actors, making them rehearse the play under his direction. His
presence in the seaport thus became known; the English Ambassador was
notified and the latter at once addressed to the Government the most
vehement remonstrances.

“On the 16th of December a counter order was issued and sent to Havre
and Nantes, prohibiting the officers from embarking and the vessels from
setting out. But when the counter order reached Havre, _l’Amphitrite_,
which bore the greater part of the officers and munitions, already had
set sail. The _Seine_ and the _Romaine_ were alone sequestered,
Beaumarchais then returned with all haste to Paris, in order to obtain
the revocation of the counter order.” (Loménie II, p. 136.)

But in the meantime, an event had happened which, as soon as it became
known, roused the French people to the highest pitch of enthusiasm,
while it deepened the distrust and anger of the English Ambassador. This
event was the arrival of Dr. Franklin upon the shores of France.
Beaumarchais already had announced the fact in a letter to Vergennes.
“The noise,” he said, “caused by the arrival of Mr. Franklin is
inconceivable.... The courageous old man allowed the vessel to make two
captures, in spite of the personal danger he ran.”

Though the French people might welcome with heartfelt enthusiasm, the
venerable old democrat and philosopher, yet his presence at this moment
was a serious matter to the Court of France. The Government was moving,
it is true, directly towards open war with Great Britain, but she was as
yet very unwilling that the English should have cause of offense in her
attitude towards the country which had now declared itself free and
independent. All the supplies which she was allowing to be sent by
Hortalès et Cie. went out in vessels bound direct to her West Indian
possessions, and were ostensibly intended for her own colonists, so that
the English Government had no legal right to interfere. England
therefore redoubled her watchfulness at the court of her rival, and
knowing as she very well did that it was in every way to the interest of
France to aid the Americans in their fight for liberty, she was all the
more determined to harass and thwart every operation which tended in
that direction.

All this time the Americans were far too deeply engrossed with the
difficulties of their own situation to spend much thought upon those
that surrounded their friends in Europe. On the 26th of September,
Congress had appointed three commissioners to the Court of France. Silas
Deane already on the spot had been retained; to him were added Benjamin
Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. The latter declining to serve, was
replaced by Arthur Lee, who was still in London.

Immediately after setting foot in France, Franklin wrote to his _cher,
bon ami_, the Doctor Dubourg, a letter full of warm expressions of
friendship and of polite messages to Madame. He enclosed under the same
cover a letter to Silas Deane, begging his dear friend to see to its
speedy delivery. The letter to Deane informed him of his new
appointment, and gave orders that Lee be summoned immediately to join
them. He bore with him no letter from Congress, nor any message relating
to the past services of Deane, news of which, in fact, had hardly
reached the colonies at the time of the doctor’s embarkation.

Franklin had no personal interest in the work already accomplished,
since his _cher, bon ami_ had been set aside, as soon as Deane saw
“where the confidence of the Government was placed.” From the first he
had determined not to interfere in the quarrel that existed between Lee
and Deane, and he steadily refused to enter into the merits of the zeal
displayed by Beaumarchais under cover of Hortalès et Cie. Warned against
him by so many of his friends, and having particular reasons for not
showing marked favor to Deane (the suspicious jealousy of Lee’s
character threatened from the start to thwart the entire object of the
commission), he chose the course of ignoring all that already had been
accomplished. For the moment Deane, himself, seemed alienated from
Beaumarchais. Vexed at the delay in despatching the supplies (for he
knew nothing of the counter-order issued by the Government), irritated
by Lee, annoyed at the indifference of Franklin and dismayed by the
silence of Congress, Deane in turn assumed an attitude of cold
indifference which perplexed and disquieted his friend. The new duties
which were forced upon him, the change in the character of his mission,
occupied for the time all his thoughts.

As soon as the three commissioners were united in Paris, Franklin wrote
asking for an audience with the minister of foreign affairs, M. de
Vergennes. “Sir,” he wrote, “we beg leave to acquaint your Excellency
that we are appointed and fully empowered by the Congress of the United
States of America to propose and negotiate a treaty of amity and
commerce between France and the said states.... (Doniol II, 112.)” The
minister, however, really anxious to further the plans of Beaumarchais,
was slow to give additional umbrage to the English Ambassador by
receiving the three commissioners whose presence in Paris it was
impossible to hide.

Already Franklin had taken up his quarters in Passy, where he held a
little court of his own. Imbert de St. Amand, in his _Les Beaux Jours de
Marie Antoinette_, has given a vivid picture of the impression made upon
the inhabitants of Paris by the presence in their midst of the aged
philosopher. “The idol of the day,” he says, “in that Paris, so
capricious and so versatile, was Franklin—that peasant, that
septuagenarian philosopher, that learned democrat, that man of the
future—was acclaimed by the French aristocracy. The philanthropists, the
apologists of perpetual peace, demanded war with loud cries. Louis XVI,
notwithstanding his scruples of conscience, allowed himself to be won
over. The apartments of Versailles filled themselves with solicitors of
peril and of glory. All the young nobility wished to start at once. What
transport! what madness! what valor in those paladin philosophers, those
chivalrous democrats, having the double passion of glory and liberty,
full of superb illusions, of generous follies, and so eloquent, so
amiable, so brave! With what gaiety these quitted their pleasures, their
châteaux, their theatres, to live the life of a soldier, to go to seek
the other side of the Atlantic, perils and unknown dangers!”

All this excitement caused by the presence of Franklin did not tend to
lessen the vigilance of the English, although from the first they had
hope that if France could be prevented from aiding the Colonies,
Franklin might in the end be obliged to enter into negotiations with
England. It was precisely this fear which haunted the French Government
and induced the King to revoke the counter-order issued to prevent the
sailing of the ships of Hortalès et Cie. Happy at last in gaining
permission to leave port, Beaumarchais thought only of despatching his
retarded vessels, when he learned that the _Amphitrite_, the one ship
that had set out before the arrival of the counter-order, was at
Lorient, a seaport on the west coast of France, whither it had been
brought by du Coudray “under the pretext that bad weather encountered in
the channel had shown the defective condition of the vessel.” (_Doniol_
II, p. 314.)

Beaumarchais, still deceived, wrote to Vergennes: “_L’Amphitrite_, after
sixteen days of bad weather, has been obliged to return for a moment to
take on fresh provisions, those on board having been saturated by the
sea. This is what I have from M. du Coudray, who asks that it be kept
secret, and who expects to depart in a few days.”

The treachery of this officer could not, however, long remain secret.
“The English Ambassador, learning the details, complained loudly to
Vergennes, who, irritated to find himself again compromised, laid the
blame on Beaumarchais withdrawing the permission newly accorded to set
sail.” (Loménie II, p. 137.) Du Coudray then wrote a long letter full of
lame excuses. Beaumarchais, furious on learning the truth, replied as
follows:

                                         “Paris, January 22, 1777.

   “As your conduct, sir, in this affair is inexplicable, I will not
   waste time in trying to comprehend it. All that concerns me is to
   guarantee myself and my friends against occurrences of the same
   kind in future. As the veritable owner, therefore, of the
   _Amphitrite_, I send herewith an order to Captain Fautrelle, to
   take absolute command. You are sagacious enough to see that I
   have not taken so decisive a step without previously consulting
   powerful and judicious friends. Have the kindness, sir, to
   conform to it, or find another vessel to take you wherever you
   please, with no pretension on my part to hinder you in any
   respect, except in matters which relate to myself and which tend
   to injure me.”

When Deane learned of the disgraceful conduct of the man in whom he had
reposed such entire confidence, he withdrew the commission which he had
granted him, and the 8th of February wrote to Beaumarchais. “The
strange, ungrateful and perfidious conduct of this man, mortifies and
embarrasses me strangely, and as I wish with all my heart that I had
never seen him, I wish equally that he may never see America.”
Beaumarchais at once forwarded this letter to Vergennes, begging him to
prevent du Coudray from setting out for the new world. An order from
Vergennes arrived commanding him to return to his garrison at Metz.
Instead of obeying, he hastened to Versailles, where, as has been shown,
he had powerful protection. He succeeded in being privately presented to
Franklin and through the intervention of the ministers of war and the
navy, du Coudray received from Franklin a recommendation to Congress,
which recommendation Deane himself finally consented to sign, although
with reluctance, for he informed Beaumarchais at once of the act,
assuring him that he had done no more than admit that du Coudray was a
good officer. Vergennes, not wishing a quarrel either with the Comte de
St. Germain or with M. de Sartine (minister of war and the navy), was
obliged to close his eyes to the action of the officer, who at once
hastened to set sail for America. (See _Doniol_ II, p. 317.)

The 11th of February, Beaumarchais wrote to Vergennes: “Everyone knows
the evil which that officer wishes to do me. Having made to myself a law
to explain to no one the wise and pressing motives which oppose
themselves to the departure of that officer, and owing to the necessity
of preventing his indiscretions, I am liable to be taxed with a design
to persecute him, whom on the contrary I have from the first endeavored
to advance and have aided in sincere good faith.... It is neither in my
character nor in my principles to revenge myself on anyone—I should be
obliged to pass my life at that odious business....”

“Neither the orders of Vergennes nor the interference of Beaumarchais or
Deane having prevented du Coudray from crossing the Atlantic, the evil
which followed was inevitable. Arrived in America, he hastened to accuse
Beaumarchais of the very acts which he himself had attempted to perform,
and he accused not him alone, but in consequence Silas Deane of
complicity, as well as the Comte de Vergennes.” (_Doniol_ II, p. 353.)

“Dreaming of great position in America, he built upon the order to
retain him on the continent, and gave it out as an intrigue of
Beaumarchais.” He at once issued a pamphlet to Congress, in which he
explained, “It is to my credit alone, and to my zeal in your service,
that you are indebted for the extent of the aid accorded to your
commissioner, and in nothing to the Sieur de Beaumarchais; everything
was finished when he arrived.” He further dilated upon the greed of gain
which characterized the French agent, and accused him of fraud in his
dealings with the colonies. To minds already prepossessed with similar
ideas, this pamphlet was not calculated to increase the confidence of
Congress in the good faith either of their commissioner or of his
friend. During the two months preceding the open exposure of the perfidy
of this officer, the difficulty of the situation of Beaumarchais hardly
can be overestimated. “Denounced by the conspiracies of du Coudray as
being only incited by desire for lucre; obliged to resort to complicated
expediencies in order to spare the Government the recriminations of the
English, constrained to defend himself against the mistrust aroused even
in the spirit of M. de Vergennes by his at times inevitable
indiscretions; forced to fall back on justifications which might seem
equivocal, he lent himself to doubt, even to suspicion.” (_Doniol_ II,
p. 308.) On the 30th of January he wrote to M. de Vergennes:

   “When one writes to a minister whom one respects and cherishes,
   one is very much embarrassed to find terms to explain a fact like
   the one that suffocates me. After Mr. Deane had shown during a
   month a very bad humor, and saying to myself the whole time that
   there was something very mysterious in the delay of the vessels
   at Havre, I was anxious to have an explanation of his offensive
   tone. He replied that, tired himself of not knowing where the
   blame lay, he had the honor to send you a memoir by M. Lee, and
   that the latter reported that Your Excellency had clearly assured
   him that for a long while there had been no obstacle on the part
   of the ministry and that if I said there was, it could only be an
   imposture of mine or of M. Montieu. Pardon, M. le Comte, if after
   swallowing all the other bitter pills without complaint, this
   rests in my throat and strangles me in passing. Your Excellency
   will perhaps be so good as to cast a glance over the four letters
   that I join to this, written by me to M. de Sartine the 3rd,
   18th, 22d and 29th of January. They will inform you of the true
   state of affairs if it is possible that you are ignorant of it,
   and you will tell me afterwards up to what point you order me to
   keep silent and sacrifice myself. This blow crushes me and makes
   me desire that my whole conduct as a vigilant man and faithful
   servitor be promptly examined and with the utmost rigor. It is
   impossible for me to take an instant’s repose until you have
   accorded me this grace. Read, I beg you, my letters to M. de
   Sartine and judge of my suffering.”

Vergennes immediately replied, and the whole situation grew brighter.
Beaumarchais wrote the next day, February 1, 1777, “I sincerely thank
you for your goodness in tranquilizing me. I have force against
everything except your discontent. Never judge me without hearing me,
this is the only favor I ask. I know well that you are accused of
irresolution, which is very far from your character. Afterwards they
cast upon me the reflections of their discontent, making you speak, so
that I may feel it more keenly—I will never believe anything again. I
have the intimate consciousness that I do my best and even the best that
can be done under the circumstances. Across all the obstacles that
surround me, a small success pays me for great labor. I feel myself
already light-hearted again since yesterday’s letters have told me that
three of my vessels have started.” Beaumarchais was thus after so many
delays given full power to act. On the 4th of February, 1777, he wrote
to Vergennes:

   “At last I have my delivery.... It is a pity that the Dutch
   should be destined to have the principal gain from the transport
   of these materials. No matter, the most important thing is, not
   to let America come to grief through lack of good munitions....”

By the beginning of March ten vessels of Roderigue Hortalès et Cie. were
floating towards America. The seventh of that month he announced the
fact to Vergennes: “Never,” he wrote, “has commercial affair been pushed
with so much vigor, in spite of obstacles of every nature which have
been encountered. May God give it good success!”

“Beaumarchais,” says M. de Loménie, “naturally expected soon to receive
very many expressions of gratitude from Congress, as well as very much
Maryland and Virginia tobacco. He did not even receive a reply to his
letters.” Nevertheless, he continued to send out ships laden with
supplies, all through the spring and summer, receiving from his agents
alone information of their safe arrival.

The failure of Congress to ratify the conditions offered by its
commissioner would have brought to ruin the commercial house of
Roderigue Hortalès et Cie. in spite of the subsidy of two millions with
which it had been founded, had not the Government again come to its
assistance. But though the ministers in general, and Vergennes in
particular, never entirely deserted Beaumarchais, other and wholly
different measures for aiding the Americans were now seriously occupying
their attention. The colonies in declaring themselves free from British
rule had forced upon France the necessity of coming to some definite
decision. This she was slow in doing, but so inevitable was it that she
should take an active part in the great struggle that already the
measures necessary for the arming and equipping of her forces were being
discussed in her councils, while the nation, gone mad with enthusiasm,
was urging her forward in the pathway which could lead to nothing but
open war.

[Illustration: LAFAYETTE]



CHAPTER XX


_”Never Greece, never Rome, never any people of the ancient world,
exposed the motives of its independence with a more noble simplicity,
nor based them upon more evident truths.”_

  _Gudin de la Brenellerie, Histoire de Beaumarchais._


   The Declaration of Independence and Its Effect in
     Europe—Beaumarchais’s Activity in Getting Supplies to
     America—Difficulties Arise About Sailing—Treachery of du
     Coudray—Lafayette’s Contract with Deane—His Escape to
     America—Beaumarchais’s Losses—Baron von Steuben Sails for America
     in Beaumarchais’s Vessel, Taking the Latter’s Nephew, des
     Epinières, and His Agent, Theveneau de Francy—The Surrender of
     Burgoyne—Beaumarchais Finds Himself Set Aside While Others Take
     His Place—Faces Bankruptcy—Vergennes Comes to His Assistance.


“The Act,” says _Doniol_ (I, p. 561), “which proclaimed to the civilized
world the institution of the American Republic and which was destined to
open a new phase of civilization, was announced in Europe only as an
incident, secondary to the resistance of the rebels.

“The English Government would not admit that the solemn act produced any
visible emotion in London. In the beginning Garnier, the French
Ambassador, was no more struck than the cabinet of London by the page of
political philosophy put into being by the declaration of Congress, and
which was to respond so loudly in the country of Voltaire and the
Encyclopædia.” In France, “when it became known,” continues Doniol, “it
produced the most vivid sensation which was possible to create a century
ago by the means of publicity then existing.”

But though the action of the colonies was greeted with wild enthusiasm
by the populace, the government remained cold and undemonstrative. Silas
Deane had written to Congress, January 17, 1777, “The hearts of the
French people are universally for us and the opinion for an immediate
war with Great Britain is very strong, but the court has its reasons for
postponing a little longer.”

The chief cause of the apparent inaction of the government arose from
the ruined condition of its finances. Beaumarchais, as was seen in the
last chapter, already had been commissioned to draw up a plan of finance
which should aid in the present crisis. This he had done, basing his
scheme of reform upon the wise and prudent measures adopted by the great
Sully. He endeavored to prove that these reforms would, if put into
execution, cause such an increase of revenue as would enable France
safely to declare war, without increasing the rate of taxation or
incurring the risk of bankruptcy. His scheme, however, had been set
aside. On the 30th of March, 1777, he addressed a lengthy memoir to the
prime minister, M. le Comte de Maurepas, of which the following is an
extract:

   “ ... I have doubtless explained badly my ideas of help for the
   Americans, since it seems that you have not adopted them. The
   fear of giving you too much to read makes me concise to the point
   of being perhaps obscure.... Read the letter of M. Deane....
   Judge if a good Frenchman, a zealous subject of the King, a good
   servitor of M. de Maurepas, who respects him and wishes to see
   his administration honored among all the people of the world,
   judge if he can support your constant refusal to lend him a hand,
   the earnest solicitations of America at bay, and the insolent
   triumph of armed England.... M. le Comte, spare your servitors
   the sorrows of one day hearing you reproached with having been in
   a position to save America at small cost and you have not done
   it, to tear her from the yoke of England and to unite her to us
   by commerce, and that you have neglected it.

   “Hear me, I pray you; you distrust too much your own powers and
   my resources; and above all I fear that you do not sufficiently
   esteem the empire, which your age and your wisdom gives you over
   a young prince whose heart is formed, but whose politics are
   still in the cradle. You forget that that fresh young soul has
   been turned and brought back from very far. He is tractable,
   helpless, weak in his whole being. You forget that while dauphin,
   Louis XVI had an invincible repugnance to the old parliaments,
   yet that their recall honored the first six months of his reign;
   you forget also that he swore never to be vaccinated, yet that
   eight days afterwards he had the vaccine in his arm. No one is
   ignorant of this, and no one will excuse you for not employing
   the beautiful power of your place in causing to be adopted the
   great things which you have in your mind.

   “If you find my liberties too daring, go back to their respectful
   motives, and you will pardon them to my attachment.

   “It was not play on my part, M. le Comte, when attaching myself
   to you, I said with feeling: ‘I shall never have a day of true
   happiness, if your administration passes away without having
   accomplished the three greatest acts which could illustrate it:
   the humiliation of England by the union of America and France;
   the re-establishment of the finances, following the plan of
   Sully, which I have placed several times at your feet, and the
   rendering of civil existence to protestants.... These three
   things are to-day in your hands; I wish only the honor of having
   often recalled them to you. What work, M. le Comte, what success
   more beautiful, could crown your career? After such actions,
   there is no death. The dearest existence of man, his reputation,
   survives all and becomes eternal. Hear me then, I beg you, in
   favor of the Americans. Remember that the deputies await my
   answer to dispatch a courier who will carry encouragement or
   desolation into Congress.... Do not render my pains unfruitful,
   through not concurring in them, and may the recompense of my
   works be the honor of having made them acceptable to you!

   “I am, with the most respectful devotion, M. le Comte,

                                   “Your very, etc.,
                                                “de Beaumarchais.”


To all this Maurepas made no reply, and the unhappy agent, still
harassed and thwarted in his plans, wrote to Vergennes:

                                                  “April 13, 1777.

   “ ... If I do my duty, as M. de Maurepas had before the goodness
   to say to me, in presenting without ceasing and under all its
   faces, the picture of so important an affair, permit me to
   represent to you, M. le Comte, what you know better than I, that
   loss of time, silence and indecision are even worse than refusal.
   Refusal is a deed, one can act afterwards, but from nothing,
   nothing ever comes—it remains nothing....”

[Illustration: GENERAL JOHN SCHUYLER]

In the same letter he warmly pleaded his own cause. “In so far as I work
alone,” he said, “my secret is secure. If the indiscretion of the
officers of the _Amphitrite_ and their foolish chief make known the
destination of the vessel, what can I do more than you? I defy any man
in this country, beginning with the ministers themselves, to cite either
what name, what charge, from what port and for what destination I have
sent the vessels dispatched since.... In a word, M. le Comte, now that
all is in operation, when the first pains and labors of so vast an
establishment have obtained a certain success, when my profound disdain
for the idle gossip of society has turned aside the babblers and now
that I can assure the happy consequence of the enterprise, do you refuse
to concur any longer? and does my active perseverance inspire the same
in no one?... In the name of Heaven, of honor, of the interests of
France, retard no longer your decision, M. le Comte! Confer again with
M. de Maurepas. No object is more important, and none so pressing.

“In the instant of closing this letter, I receive one from Nantes, by
which I am informed of the refusal to provide sailors, and so my richest
ship is stopped at the moment it is ready to sail.... I implore you, M.
le Comte, promptly to arrange with M. de Sartine what is necessary for
the departure of my vessel.... I hope to go myself for your orders upon
very many objects Thursday evening, if you do not send them before. I
recommend the Americans to your remembrance and their advocate to your
good will.... The hour of the post has passed while I was writing. I
send this therefore by a man on horseback.”

In striking contrast to the outspoken and independent tone assumed by
Beaumarchais when addressing the ministers, is the friendly yet
authoritative manner which he employs when it is question of a
subordinate. To de Francy, his confidential agent, he had written
February 28, 1777, in relation to the dispatching of the _Amphitrite_,
after it had been brought back by du Coudray: “We shall have to say,
like Bartholo (one of the characters in the _Barbier de Séville_) ‘_le
diable est entré dans mon affaire_,’ and remedy as best we may the evil
that is past, by preventing its happening again. Give the enclosed
letter to M. du Coudray. I send it to you open, in order that you may
reply in my behalf to his objections, should he make any. Show to
Captain Fautrelle, the enclosed order which we give him, in quality of
proprietor of the vessel which he commands, and take his word of honor
to conform to it entirely. I received yesterday a letter from my nephew
along with yours. As unreasonable as the rest of them, my nephew seems
to be unwilling to go back to his place on the _Amphitrite_. You can
understand the little attention which I pay to such childishness. Simply
recommend him again to the special care of M. de Conway and to the
Chevalier de Bore. Command the captain to receive on board M. le Marquis
de la Rouërie, who comes to us with special recommendations. Give to the
Captain the general rule and the secret of the route. If the force of
circumstances obliges him to put into Santo Domingo, arrange with him
and M. de Conway not to stop there, but to write to the governor of the
island in order to notify him that the fear of some unlucky encounter,
alone prompted the drawing up of the fictitious order in regard to the
destination of the _Amphitrite_, and take from him a new fictitious
order for France, in order to shelter yourself by that order in case you
encounter an English vessel between Santo Domingo and the true
destination of the ship. You know very well that all the precautions of
the Ministry are taken in accord with us; it is upon this that we can
count.

“As soon as the _Amphitrite_ has set sail, go on to Nantes, where, by
the way, you will probably find _le Mercure_ started, because it is
ready now to set sail. Good-bye, my dear Francy. Come quickly back to
Paris. You have trotted about enough for this time; other work awaits
you here: but I will be there to divide it with you. Bring me back this
letter.”

The fear of a possible reconciliation of the colonies with Great
Britain, which constantly haunted the agent of the French Government,
had of late been greatly augmented. The 8th of March, 1777, he had
written to Vergennes:

   “Sunday morning.

   “M. le Comte; Another letter you will say. Will they never stop!
   Eh! how can I stop, M. le Comte, when new objects unceasingly
   excite my attention and my vigilance? A private secretary of Lord
   Germaine arrived yesterday, secretly sent to Messrs. Deane and
   Franklin. He brings propositions of peace. The most superb
   recompenses are promised him if he succeeds.” ...

   Monday morning, he wrote ... “America is doing the impossible to
   hold her own. But be sure that she cannot go much farther without
   you, or without a reconciliation with Great Britain.... While I
   am treating with you, I warn you that England is secretly
   attempting to treat with M. Franklin.... Deane is regarded as a
   formidable obstacle to any project of adjustment: They will
   attempt to dislodge him at whatever price. My news is so positive
   as to the intention of the ministers that my conjectures become
   facts. They have the project to compel Deane to leave France, and
   to make of him the expiatory victim.” A short time before
   Beaumarchais had written to the same minister: “The doctor
   Franklin at this moment, wishes to send away M. Deane from
   France. My special object is to prevent his leaving. The manly
   firmness of this Republican alone, can arrest the insinuations
   of every kind employed against the doctor.”

As a matter of fact, Franklin was well aware of the dismay which the
noise of his secret communications with agents of Great Britain had
caused the ministers, nor did he desire to allay their suspicions. He
knew well the value for France of an alliance with the colonies, at
least supposing the fact of their independence. He knew, also, how far
it was to the interest of England to prevent such an alliance. So long
as France remained outwardly inactive, Franklin did nothing to allay the
fears of the one government nor to weaken the hopes of the other,
although there can be no doubt that in his heart he was bent only upon
concluding a treaty with France. In March, 1777, he wrote: “I did not
come to make peace, but to procure the aid of European powers to permit
us to defend our liberty and our independence, which it is certainly to
their interest to guarantee, because our great and growing commerce will
be open, and cease to be the monopoly of England.... I think we shall be
capable with a little help, of defending our possessions long enough, so
that England will be ruined if she persists in destroying us.... I
flatter myself to live to see my country established in peace and
prosperity, while Great Britain will no longer be so formidable a figure
among the powers of Europe.” There also seems no doubt but that he had
at last secretly concurred with Deane in aiding the escape of Lafayette
from the restrictions imposed upon him by the French government,
although subsequently, the whole blame was allowed to rest upon Deane
alone.

The situation in regard to Lafayette was as follows: Some time during
the year 1775, the young Marquis who was then scarcely eighteen, and who
was serving under the Comte de Broglie at the garrison of Metz, was
present at a dinner given in the fortress where the English Duke of
Gloucester was guest. The latter was bitterly opposed to the policy of
George III in regard to America, and at table spoke freely of the
uprising among the colonists; it was then, so Lafayette tells us in his
memoirs, that he formed the resolution of offering his services to the
insurgents. Through the intervention of De Broglie, the Baron von Kalb,
a Prussian general serving in France, introduced to Silas Deane on
November 5, 1776, the young marquis with two of his cousins who had
formed the same determination to offer their services to America. Silas
Deane received them with enthusiasm, and promised all high positions in
the American Army (see _Doniol_ Vol. II, p. 63). Eleven other officers
were added and the entire group were to sail from Havre on _La Seine_,
one of the fleet of Hortalès et Cie. when the order already spoken of,
came from the government to prevent further operations of the house.
Moreover, a special prohibition was issued regarding the young officers,
because it was of great importance for the French Government to seem to
oppose the enlistment of such prominent members of the high nobility as
Lafayette and his colleagues. Nothing daunted, Lafayette, whose fortune
made him independent, bought a vessel of his own, _La Victoire_, and
having decided “to go in spite of everything and without regard to
consequences” secretly negotiated with Deane, and set sail, April 20,
1777, with some twenty other commissioned officers.

The agreement which had been drawn up between them was signed by
Lafayette, the Baron von Kalb, and Silas Deane; it bore the date of
December 7, 1776, although it was not really issued until February,
1777. This discrepancy was owing to the fact that since the arrival of
Franklin in December, Deane’s commission had changed in nature, so that
he no longer was empowered to enlist officers for the American service.
The date of December 7, 1776 had been chosen because on that day the two
noblemen had been presented to the American Commissioner and an informal
engagement entered into. This was immediately before the arrival of
Franklin in France.

The true patriotism which inspired Deane led him to adopt this
subterfuge, feeling as he did that the services of so brilliant an
officer as Lafayette, and one belonging to such an illustrious house,
would be of sufficient value to his country to warrant the irregularity
of the act. The Baron von Kalb had originally, it would seem, stipulated
with Deane for a considerable salary, part of which was to be paid in
advance. (See _Our French Allies_, Stone, p. 39.) Deane rightly
understood the effect which would be produced in the different courts of
Europe by the daring deed of the young nobleman and foresaw the
consequent fury of the English which could not help but hasten the final
decision of the ministry. Therefore he willingly concurred in the
designs of Lafayette, aiding them to the utmost of his power (_Doniol_,
Vol. II, Chap. VII). Congress afterwards disavowed all the commissions
granted by Deane, so that most of the officers were obliged to return to
France. Lafayette and the Baron von Kalb, having fortunes of their own,
were willing to serve without pay; they were therefore given
appointments. The romantic escape of the young nobleman caused all the
commotion that was expected of it. The Capital went wild with
exultation, openly vindicating his act, while the anger of the English
knew no bounds.

England, indeed, had good grounds for discontent with the conduct of her
rival. “Public opinion in London,” says Doniol, “was more and more for
war. France everywhere was accused of aiding the colonies.... It was
said that open war was preferable to the insidious peace which we
pretended to maintain while according every advantage to the revolted
colonies.”—(_Doniol_ II, p. 455.) Other causes of grievance, especially
in regard to the protection granted to American vessels in all French
ports, were constantly coming up. “England,” says Doniol, “incriminated
especially the authorities of Martinique. According to Lord Weymouth,
the Americans armed openly in the island, favored by the most notable
persons. So much pressure was brought to bear upon the French Government
by the English Ambassador, that, not yet ready for war, it was forced to
grant the satisfaction which was demanded. As in previous instances, the
blow fell heaviest upon Beaumarchais. July 1, 1777, he wrote:

   “I have just received news that afflicts me.... M. de Bouille,
   the new governor of Martinique, has notified the merchants that
   it is agreed between the courts of France and England, that the
   English Navy seize the French vessels coming from their islands,
   taking all the commodities of America which they find.... This is
   so impossible, that though I have read it, I still cannot believe
   it!

   “Afternoon.... I am indeed, in despair to receive the
   confirmation of that trying announcement. It seems certain that
   France has ceded to the English the right to seize all French
   vessels coming from the islands, which are charged with American
   commodities. What distress, M. le Comte, could have brought about
   such an arrangement?... I learn by letters from Cape Francis of
   the 18th of May, that the cargo of the _Amétie_, happily arrived
   in that port, has started for America, divided on several
   American and Bermudan vessels, bought at my cost at Santo Domingo
   for....

   “P. S. You are not to blame, M. le Comte, for the consequences of
   that sorrowful convention with the English. Your hands were tied
   to sign it. But I am in despair. I made my payment of the 30th
   yesterday, selling all the paper money which I had, at a
   disadvantage. A quarter of an hour is so important, that a
   million arriving the next day could not repair the lack of but
   thirty thousand _louis d’or_. I was compelled to pay yesterday
   £184,328 2s., and £21,864 8s. 4d. remain unpaid from the 15th on
   which I have only received £200,000 instead of £221,864 8s. 4d.
   From now until the 15th, I must pay £268,304 8s. 3d. I am lacking
   therefore £490,168 16s. 7d. with the loss of my paper money, and
   the three last payments which I must replace so as to be abreast
   of my affairs. I therefore beg you to send me an order for
   5,000,000 fr., after that I can go forward, but as my destination
   is not a matter of indifference, I shall have the honor of
   conferring with you about it.”

The documents deposited in the bureau of foreign affairs, show that M.
de Vergennes “taking into consideration the desperate situation into
which Beaumarchais found himself thrown, owing to the obstinate refusal
of Congress to send him returns, had advanced successively, the 13th
May, 1777, 400,000 livres, the 16th of June, 200,000 livres, and the 3rd
of July 474,496 livres.” (_Loménie_ II, p. 145.) By this means alone,
Beaumarchais was able to continue his active services in the cause of
America.

Although the court of Louis XVI were making pretense of not favoring the
Americans, they already had decided on war and were endeavoring to bring
the court of Spain to a similar decision.

“The 26th of June,” says Doniol, “a memoir was addressed to the Spanish
cabinet explaining the seasonableness of associating themselves
positively with the colonies, and in consequence, of making war upon
England.”

“By the means so far employed,” wrote Vergennes, “the reconciliation of
the colonies with Great Britain cannot be prevented; those means have
been all that have been prudent, but they will not suffice any longer;
it is necessary that the assistance become sufficiently effective to
assure a total separation and so compel the Americans to gratitude.”

Madrid was finally forced to follow the course laid out for it at
Versailles; but before openly declaring their alliance, both courts
awaited some decisive act of the Americans. The capture of Burgoyne
determined the King, although several months more elapsed before the
treaty was actually signed.

But if the court was thus apparently inactive, Beaumarchais continued as
assiduous as ever in aiding the Americans, and this notwithstanding the
coldness of the commissioners, the total absence of returns and the
unbroken silence of the Continental Congress. The Hon. John Bigelow, in
his admirable paper _Beaumarchais, the Merchant_, speaking of
Beaumarchais at this period, said: “He received no tobacco, nor money,
nor thanks, nor even a letter from Congress.... His funds were
exhausted, and all his expectations of returns were disappointed.... At
last, reduced to extremities, he resolved to send a confidential agent
to the United States, to obtain, if possible some explanation of results
so chilling to his enthusiasm, and for which he was so poorly prepared.
For this mission he selected a young man named Theveneau de Francy, a
person of considerable talent, generous and enthusiastic, but poorly
trained for the delicate duty assigned him. De Francy embarked for the
United States at Marseilles on the 26th of September, 1777, on board of
one of Beaumarchais’s ships, carrying twenty-four guns, called _Le
Flammand_.”

“De Francy,” says Loménie, “went out with the double mission of
obtaining justice from Congress for the past, and to prevent cargoes
from being delivered gratis in the future.”

But before entering into a consideration of his mission, let us pause to
note among the passengers of the _Flammand_ a now justly celebrated
personage, who was destined to render such effective aid in training the
American troops; this was Baron von Steuben. In his life of that famous
Prussian officer, Frederick Kapp has given a detailed account of the
incidents which led up to his entering the American service. The French
minister of war, the Comte de St. Germain, had long been a pronounced
admirer of the military tactics employed by the king of Prussia. He had
endeavored to have those tactics introduced into the French army but
without success. Being on intimate terms with the Baron, the latter made
a halt in Paris with the intention of visiting his friend at Versailles
on the occasion of a voyage to England in the spring of 1777. Having
notified the count of his desire to wait upon him, the Baron was
surprised to be requested not to come to Versailles, but to meet him at
the arsenal in Paris. “You have arrived very apropos,” the count said;
opening a map and pointing to America, he continued, “Here is your field
of action, here is the Republic you must serve. You are the very man she
needs at this moment. If you succeed, your fortune is made and you will
acquire more glory than you can hope for in Europe for many years to
come.” He then pictured the bravery, the resources of the Americans, and
intimated the possibility of an open alliance. After this he sketched
the other side of the situation; spoke of the disadvantages under which
the Americans labored: bad training, lack of order and discipline among
the troops, and ended by saying “You see now why you must not be seen at
Versailles.” The Baron, however, seemed but little touched by the
eloquent appeal of his friend. He told the count that he was no longer
young, that he had no ambition; though he was without fortune, yet his
position was all that he desired.

After a second interview, his interest seemed somewhat aroused. The
Count gave him a letter to Beaumarchais, who introduced him to Deane;
and Deane took him to Passy to see Franklin. Both commissioners seemed
anxious that Steuben should enter the service. “But,” says his
biographer, “when Steuben mentioned a disbursement for the expenses of
his journey, they expressed some doubts of their power to grant it. Mr.
Deane made no difficulties; Franklin, however, made several. He spoke a
great deal of presenting him with a couple of thousand acres of land,
... but Steuben did not care for them.... As to any advances, Franklin
positively declared that it was out of the question; he told him this
with an air and manner to which Steuben, as he remarked in a letter
written at that time, ‘was then little accustomed,’ whereupon he
immediately took leave, without any further explanation.

“He went thence to M. de Beaumarchais, telling him that he intended to
set out immediately for Germany, and that he did not wish to hear any
more of America. As soon as Beaumarchais was informed of the cause of
Steuben’s resolution, he said to him, that if he wanted nothing but
money, a thousand _louis d’or_ and more were at his disposal. Steuben
thanked him for his generous offer, but said his determination was
fixed. The Count of St. Germain endeavored to dissuade him, but to no
effect.

“Arrived at Rastadt, he found a very persuasive letter from M. de
Beaumarchais, who wrote that the Comte de St. Germain expected his
prompt return to Versailles; that a vessel was ready at Marseilles for
his embarkation, and that Beaumarchais’s funds were entirely at the
Baron’s disposal.

“Prince William of Baden, with whom Steuben conferred, urged him to
accept; accordingly he returned to Paris, August 17, 1777.”

On the 26th of September he set sail. Beaumarchais wrote to Congress:

   “The art of making war successfully being the fruit of courage
   combined with prudence, knowledge and experience, a companion in
   arms of the great Frederic, who stood by his side for twenty-two
   years, seems one of the men best fitted to second M. Washington.”

   Baron von Steuben was well received in America. As he asked for
   no pay, and wished to enter the army as a simple volunteer, no
   objection was made to his enlistment. He soon was raised to a
   position suitable to his rank and talents. A little more than a
   year after his arrival, Beaumarchais, overjoyed at the success
   which had attended the Baron, wrote to his agent, Theveneau de
   Francy: “Recall me often to the memory of M. the Baron von
   Steuben.

   “I congratulate myself from that which I learn of him, to have
   given so great an officer to my friends, the free men of America,
   and to have forced him in a way to follow that noble career. I am
   in no way disquieted about the money that I lent him for his
   voyage. Never have I made an investment which gave me greater
   pleasure, because I have been able to put a man of honor in his
   true place. I learn that he is Inspector General of all the
   American troops. Bravo! Tell him that his glory is the interest
   of my money, and that I do not doubt but at that title, he will
   pay me with usury.”

On the same vessel went also the nephew of Beaumarchais, the son of his
elder sister married to the watchmaker, De Lépine, who on entering the
American service took the name of des Epinières. It was the same of whom
Beaumarchais had spoken impatiently on the occasion of his refusing to
continue his voyage upon the _Amphitrite_, when du Coudray had brought
that vessel back to port. That he had his way, is proved by the fact
that his name is mentioned amongst the six aids who accompanied the
Baron von Steuben to America. An idea of the young man’s character may
be gained from the following brief extract of a letter written by him
the evening of an engagement: “Your nephew,” he wrote, “my very dear
Uncle, may perhaps lose his life, but he will never do a deed unworthy
of one who has the honor of belonging to you. This is as certain as the
tenderness which he always will have for the best of uncles.” According
to Loménie, he never returned to France, but died on the field of
battle, after having attained the rank of Major.

At the time when the Baron von Steuben set sail for America,
Beaumarchais was no longer the confidential agent of the government. As
has been seen, Franklin had from the first, refused to treat with him,
while Lee’s influence at home and abroad was at all times used to bring
about his ruin. More than this “everything,” says Doniol, “seemed to
cost too much; they (Franklin and Lee) had allowed themselves to be
persuaded that Beaumarchais ought to serve them for nothing. The
_Barbier de Séville_, as he was called familiarly, passed with too many
people for gaining great profit, for there not to be many interested in
ruining him. It was also of the utmost importance to England to
interfere with his operations, and the English Ambassador fed the
flames.... Dubourg had his part to play ... but whatever the reasons, it
remains true that Franklin never missed an opportunity openly to contest
the operations of Roderigue Hortalès et Cie., and to attempt to bring
them to naught.” (Doniol II, 611.) Other intermediaries, therefore,
began to be employed.

Although less recognition was given to Beaumarchais by the government,
the ministers continued to make use of his advice. “At the moment,” says
Doniol, “when he was treated with the greatest coldness, his counsels
were appropriated.... They used his political estimates almost in the
terms in which he expressed himself, sometimes textually. At the end of
October he was admitted to discuss with Vergennes and Maurepas the
definite stand to take in offering propositions of alliance with the
American colonies. Three months later when the King was about to sign
the treaty, it was evident that the Secretary of State had demanded of
Beaumarchais a résumé of their discussion. This résumé entitled,
_Mémoire particulière pour l’Etat_,” was drawn up by Beaumarchais under
circumstances peculiarly distressing. It was at the moment when he first
realized with absolute certainty that his coöperation in the aid soon to
be freely and openly accorded the Americans was no longer desired.
Nevertheless, he continued to express himself with the same manly vigor
as previously. After setting forth the actual situation of France and
Spain with regard to England, he said: “What remains for us to do?

“Three courses are open to us. The first is worth nothing, the second is
the most sure, the third, the most noble; but a wise combination of the
third and second could instantly raise the King of France to be the
first power of the civilized world.

“The first course, which is worth nothing, absolutely nothing, is to
continue to do what we are doing, or rather what we are not doing; to
remain longer passive by the side of the turbulent activity of our
neighbors, and obstinately to refuse to take sides while still awaiting
events.” After setting forth at length the actual condition of affairs
in England, the perils which menaced France, the desire which actuated
all parties in Great Britain to make peace with America while wreaking
their vengeance upon France, he continues warningly, “But the first step
towards peace being once taken, be sure that it will be too late for
France to declare in favor of America.” Then follows a narration of
preparations then making in England to take France unawares. “After
having become the laughing stock of all Europe,” cries the daring
advocate of the alliance, “a fatal war and the bankruptcy of America
will be the worthy reward of our inaction.

“The worst course therefore, of all the courses, is now, to take no
course and to attempt none in conjunction with America, waiting until
England shall have closed up every way; something which will certainly
happen very shortly.

“The second course which I regard as the most sure, would be to accept
publicly the treaty of alliance proposed to us for more than a year by
America, ... As soon,” he says, “as the English learn that there is no
longer any hope to treat with a country which has treated with us, they
will instantly make war upon us, declaring us to be aggressors.” ... One
objection after another that might present itself to the minds of the
ministers is then taken up and weighed, especially in relation to the
ignorance which existed among them with regard to the “extent of the
powers entrusted to the legation at Passy, the uncertainty of the
consent of Congress, the possible mobility of an assembly of which the
majority was the only law, and which made them fearful that France might
have to regret too late, a step which naturally would exasperate the
English.

“These fears, Beaumarchais knew how to turn aside by reasons and
considerations (_Doniol_ II, p. 742) which would not have been out of
place in the mouth of a minister.”

The third course open to France, “the noblest of all,” was to declare to
the English in a manifesto which should be announced at the same time
to the other potentates of Europe, that the King of France, after
having, through delicacy and regard to England, long remained a passive
spectator of the war existing between England and America, to the great
disadvantage and injury of French Commerce; “that conditions being so
and so,” which he proceeded to clearly define, “His Majesty obliged by
circumstances to decide upon some definite course ... and not wishing to
declare war against England, nor to insult her ... His Majesty contents
himself with declaring that he will hold the Americans for independent,
and desires to regard them as such from henceforward, relatively to
their commerce with France, and the commerce of France with them.” ...

“After drawing up his manifesto, Beaumarchais entered into the
exposition of the measures to take, and discussed the shades of opinion
of each minister exactly as though he had been part of the council....
It is not one of the least singularities of the times to see the author
of the _Barbier de Séville_ deliberating as it were with the ministers,
saying ‘I would do’ and putting himself naïvely in the place of the King
of France.” (_Loménie_, II, p. 160.)

It was early in December that news of the surrender of Burgoyne reached
Europe. “The joy of the news of Saratoga brought Beaumarchais to Passy,
in spite of the bitter griefs which he had against the Commissioners.”
(_Doniol_ II, 646.) The same day he wrote to Vergennes:

                                                “December 5, 1777.

   “Monsieur le Comte:

   “ ... Yesterday I was at Passy with the courier who arrived from
   Congress, and I passed the morning in comforting my heart with
   the excellent news of which we had that moment received the
   announcements.


   “I came back to Paris, bringing M. Grand in a light carriage with
   a postillion and two horses. The carelessness of my postillion
   ... caused us to be overturned.... Mr. Grand had his shoulder
   broken; the violence of the fall made me bleed profusely at the
   nose and mouth;—a piece of broken glass entered my right arm—the
   negro who followed was badly hurt. See me then prostrated, but
   more ill in mind than body ... it is not the postillion who kills
   me, but M. de Maurepas. Nevertheless the charming news from
   America is a balance to my soul.... I am the voice which cries
   from the depths of my bed, ‘_De profundis clamavi ad te Domine;
   Domine exaudi orationem meam_.’ Although you received the
   _Gazette_ of Boston yesterday, I will send you the extract which
   I myself made to insert in _le Courrier d’Europe_. It is just
   that I give them in England by my phrases all the poniard thrusts
   which their Ambassador gives me here with his. I salute you,
   respect and cherish you, and will sign, if I can with my wounded
   arm, the assurance of the unalterable devotion with which I am,
   etc.

                                                   “Beaumarchais.”

Two days later, he wrote:

   “M. le Comte:

   “Your honorable and sweet interest consoles me for everything. In
   thanking you for the counsels which you have been so good as to
   give me I can assure you that I did not allow myself to be too
   vivacious in the letter of which I sent you a copy; I cannot
   explain myself in writing, but you will be much more surprised
   than I, because you are less acquainted with the persons of whom
   it is a question, when I give you an account of all that has
   happened. I always have put a great difference between the honest
   deputy Deane, and the insidious Lee, and the silent Dr. Franklin.

   “The movement which the news of America has given to all idle
   heads is inconceivable; the English of the cafés do not know
   where to hide themselves;—but all that is nothing like so curious
   as what will take place in London from the shock of the different
   reports. I await the details with a pleasure equal to all the
   trouble which they have tried to make me. I thank you for the
   interest which you take in my health. I am getting up to-day for
   the first time, and to-morrow I hope to go out.... Receive with
   your ordinary goodness the assurances of the very respectful
   devotion with which I am, etc.

                                                   “Beaumarchais.”

Wounded in body and sick at heart, the zealous patriot and vigilant
friend of America continued to give notice to the government of the news
which, through his agents and friends in London, he received before
anyone else.

Thursday, the 11th of December, he wrote:

   “To M. le Comte de Vergennes, to be communicated, if he pleases,
   to M. le Comte de Maurepas.

   “M. le Comte:

   “Although I find it difficult to use my right arm, still I must
   force it to aid me in announcing to you that I received last
   night very particular news from London. Everything is in such a
   state of fermentation since the news of Burgoyne that the crisis
   has arrived, when the deceived King, the audacious ministry, and
   the most corrupt parliament must cede to the cries of a furious
   nation....

   “What is the true moral sense of this crisis? It is, that
   whichever one of the two nations, France or England, recognizes
   first the independence of America, she alone will reap all the
   fruits, while that independence will certainly be ruinous to the
   one which allows her rival to get the advance. This word sums up
   everything; this moment accomplishes everything. As to the
   details, in spite of my grievances and my sufferings, if my poor
   body can endure the _broutage_, and if you have the time and the
   desire to receive me to-day, or better, to-morrow, my postillion
   has orders to await yours.

   “I renew, with the same devotion, M. le Comte, the assurances of
   the very profound respect of the poor turned and overturned

                                                   “Beaumarchais.”

A few days later he had still more startling news to announce; a
mysterious stranger had arrived in Paris, had visited M. Deane, had
dined with him, remaining more than two hours. At the end of that time,
a lackey of Mr. Deane came into the street, looked anxiously about;
seeing a cab (which was none other than the one in the employ of
Beaumarchais) he asked if it was engaged; being told that it awaited two
ladies, the lackey entered the house and soon the mysterious stranger
came into the street and went away on foot, followed, of course, by the
cab.

Two more days passed, and at the end of that time, Beaumarchais was able
to give more definite information. The mysterious stranger proved to be
a secretary of the Lord Germaine. “Beaumarchais,” says Doniol, “informed
as usual before all others, dispatched at once a notice to the
ministers. He had followed the English Emissary from the moment of his
arrival, informed himself of what he already had accomplished, found out
his lodgings and notified the ministers, who sent at once an agent to
confer with Deane.” (_Doniol_ II, 64.) Vergennes hastened to inform the
Court of Spain of the secret actions of England, with a design to rouse
it to action. The moment was indeed a critical one, for the English
government was leaving nothing undone to come to terms with the
Americans.

January 1, 1777, Beaumarchais wrote to Vergennes:

   “I hasten to inform you that an emissary from Lord North arrived
   in Paris yesterday. He has been watched ever since he left
   London. He has orders to gain the deputation at Passy at any
   price whatever. This is the moment or never, to cry _tu dors
   Brutus_. But I know that you are not asleep. From your side you
   see very well that I do not keep bad guard either.... Be sure
   that the English ministers are working seriously to make peace
   with America, and that it is of as much value to the nation that
   they make it, as it is for Lord Chatham and others.... And so
   peace with America is absolutely resolved; this is what has been
   very expressly communicated to me. As for myself, I am informed
   by the same avenue that the minister of France has given the
   Americans here help of money by means of Messrs. Grand, that the
   English ministers know it on good authority and that I am shifted
   off, which annoys no one in England. I easily believe it. Then I
   have lost the fruits of the most noble and unbelievable labors,
   by the very means that lead others to glory; I have several times
   guessed as much by the strange things which have struck me in the
   conduct of the Americans towards me.... Miserable human prudence,
   thou canst save no one when intrigue is bent upon ruining us.

   “M. le Comte, you are the man upon whose equity I have the most
   counted; you have not even refused at times esteem and
   well-wishing to my active zeal. Before I perish as merchant, I
   demand to be fully justified as agent and trader. I demand to lay
   before you my accounts, in order that it be proved well that no
   one else could have done so much with so little means across so
   many difficulties. It is certain that this summer M. le Comte de
   Maurepas permitted me to send guns to America, and he promised me
   that when they were gone I should be reimbursed, because he
   feared at that time the indiscretion of those about M. le Comte
   de St. Germain. I bought them, sent them and gave my notes which
   fall due soon, and yet M. de Maurepas seems to have forgotten his
   promise. This article and the charging of my vessel at Rochefort,
   arrives at more than 800,000 francs.

   “By the unbelievable retention of my vessel in port, everyone
   considers me lost and demands his money; nevertheless, though
   ready to perish through this delay and money not reimbursed, I do
   not lose my head. You can judge of that by the cold and reasoned
   work which I put into your hands Saturday. But I avow that I am
   at the end of my courage and my strength by the assurance that
   Messrs. Grand have secured the confidence which I believed I so
   well merited.[1] This breaks my heart. I have fulfilled the most
   thorny of tasks; I must be allowed to prove that I have fulfilled
   it well; it is in giving my accounts that this truth will
   appear....

   “Be happy, M. le Comte, this year and all years. No one merits to
   be so, more than you, and no one desires it more truly than

                                                   “Beaumarchais.”

   [1] Beaumarchais had aided in placing Grand on firm
   footing with the American Commission (Doniol II, 613).

Although no longer made use of as intermediary, the former agent of the
government was not wholly abandoned by Vergennes.

A few days previously Beaumarchais had written:

   “M. le Comte: I felt yesterday the sweet influences of your
   goodness. If I did not obtain what I asked for, at least

   I could judge by the gentle tone of the prohibitions that they were
   less directed against me than forced by events and promises already
   made. To lose much money is a great evil, when one has very little;
   but to carry in one’s heart the mortal sorrow of displeasing when one
   has done one’s best, and even the best that could be done, under the
   circumstances, is a state which kills me. Receive, M. le Comte the
   warmest testimony of my gratitude.”

On the 22nd of January, 1778, the discarded agent handed in the résumé
required of him by the ministers. In writing to Vergennes he said: “This
sorrowful Memorial (_Mémoire Particulière, pour les ministres du Roi, et
une manifeste pour l’Etat_) which at another time, and on another
subject, I could have finished in two hours, has taken me eight days to
write, my head being so confused by the frightful medley of objects
which it contains, and in regard to which I claim your justice while
invoking your mercy.

“I even thought for four days that it had become useless through delay,
and abandoned everything to work upon my consular balance-sheet. By a
_tour de force_, I put myself on my feet for twelve or fifteen days;—But
_grand Dieu_, is this to live? The more I assume a tranquil air, the
more my secret torment increases. I have examined myself well, I have
not done the least wrong, and in going over my papers to assure myself
of my state, I have been frightened at all it has been necessary to
overcome in the last two years, to arrive where I am. If I am to be
aided, you cannot do it too quickly or too secretly for the letters of
change are like death, they wait for no one.... If I am not to be,
Amen—I have done what I ought, and more than what I could. I learn by
sure news that my two vessels of Marseilles are certainly at
Charlestown. This, in spite of France and England. Sixty-six cannons,
twenty-two mortars, bombs and bullets in proportion; eighty thousand
weight of sulphur and my poor guns which have not yet been paid for. All
this is in America, by my indefatigable labor, and I have had to deceive
all the world, with unbelievable pains, in order to make this shipment
secretly. Ah, M. le Comte, it is my balance sheet which will show what
an active man you have allowed to be lost and dishonored if you permit
this fearful misfortune to accomplish itself. I have no courage to talk
of England, because in truth I am dying of sorrow.”

[Illustration: GENERAL BARON VON STEUBEN]

That the Comte de Vergennes did not lend an altogether deaf ear to this
cry of despair, may be judged from the following letter, dated February
15, 1778,

   “M. le Comte:

   “You have seemed to take a too obliging interest in my fearful
   situation, for me to allow you to remain ignorant a moment of the
   excessive joy which I have felt since yesterday. Yesterday, my
   teeth clenched with fury to be without news, I waited the moment
   to close my case, refusing to make any payment the 15th, which
   falling due to-day Sunday, was exigible yesterday, the 14th.
   Read, M. le Comte, read I implore you what I received at 2
   o’clock, and what I replied this morning, see, my joy is
   excessive. I am no longer exposed to the dishonor of a
   bankruptcy, which, notwithstanding all my efforts, I could never
   have justified, without an involuntary and fatal indiscretion. M.
   le Comte de Maurepas received me Monday, like a corsaire who had
   failed in respect to our flag. I did not say a word, I would have
   had too much to say. I withdrew, death in my heart. Not that I
   thought the interests of America abandoned. I know very well that
   they are not....

   “The profound silence which I have imposed upon myself for the
   past two months, since the departure of the brother of M. Deane,
   secretly embarked at Bordeaux and bearing ... but this shall be
   matter for another letter. It is just that M. de Maurepas learns
   through me of this affair, for if the fear of the most frightful
   misfortune has rendered me pressing solicitor, I am not a man
   without virtue; it will be the strongest proof which I can offer
   of the resignation with which I know how to support the coldness
   and disdain of those who have protected me. Ah! but I am again
   saved. It is to you that I render a million thanks for all the
   efforts which you have made in my favor. Never will I forget the
   generous efforts which you have made to save me from ruin....”

The moment of the open alliance between France and America was now
hastening forward. With it, ends the first phase of the war of the
United States against England, “phase heroic by its enterprise, its
constancy, its privations, by the serenity of its chief and by the
results obtained, if one considers the nature and quality of the
soldiers.” (_Doniol_ III, 260.)

It was to this period that the activities of Beaumarchais in the cause
of America essentially belong. The operations, however, now so well
under way, he continued to carry on through his agent de Francy, though
from henceforward they are wholly private in character.



CHAPTER XXI


_”Any crisis which puts in peril all that society undertakes to secure
to us by its laws, uncovers our hearts to the world, strips our native
selfishness of all its disguises, and makes us appear to each other
pretty nearly as bad as we must always appear to the angels.”_

_Hon. John Bigelow in “Beaumarchais the Merchant.”_


   De Francy Sails for America—His Disappointment in the New
     World—Beaumarchais Recounts His Grievances against the Deputies
     at Passy—Rejoices Over American Victories—Manœuvers to Insure
     Safety to his Ships—The Depreciation of Paper Money in America—De
     Francy Comes to the Aid of Lafayette—Contract between Congress
     and De Francy Acting for Roderigue et Cie.—Letters of Lee to
     Congress—Bad Faith of that Body—Deane’s Signature to Documents
     Drawn up by Franklin and Lee—Beaumarchais’s Triumph at Aix—Gudin
     Seeks Refuge at the Temple—Letters of Mlle. Ninon.


Theveneau de Francy arrived in the States the 1st of December, 1777. He
was the bearer of letters to Congress from Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.,
filled with polite reminders of the fact that great advances had been
made for arms, ammunition, etc., and that it was very important that
much tobacco should be returned as soon as possible. (Spark’s
_Diplomatic Correspondence_, Vol. 1, p. 112.)

De Francy, young and enthusiastic, had set out full of admiration for
the brave people with whom he had to deal. A little experience, however,
convinced him that it was no easy or brilliant task which lay before
him. On the 14th of December, two weeks after his arrival, he addressed
a lengthy letter to his superior, in which, after giving details of the
voyage, he proceeded to describe the condition of the country to which
he had come. He begged Beaumarchais to obtain for him a captain’s
certificate from the Ministry, “for,” he said disconsolately, “it is all
I am likely to get out of this enterprise. Government currency is in
such poor credit that the 28 per cent. you promised me, to-day is worth
only ½ per cent. The paper money is so discredited that merchants
prefer keeping their merchandise to selling it at any price for paper.
The farmers bring nothing to market, so that everything is selling at
the most extravagant prices; chickens sold for $25.00 after the capture
of Burgoyne. There is no doubt that what you have done has been
presented here in a false light. I expect to have many prejudices to
destroy, and many heads to set right, for the sending of several vessels
without invoices (a thing which, to tell the truth, is unprecedented)
and the errors found in the bills of lading of the _Amphitrite_
especially, have caused it to be suspected that the shipments were not
made for a merchant. I have explained to General Whipple the reason for
this apparent disorder, and have made him admit that it was inevitable.
Nevertheless, there were articles furnished at Havre, which differ so
widely from what was delivered, that the General told me that our
correspondent in this country is either a poor merchant or a swindler.
For example: on my invoice there are 62 boxes or barrels of tinned iron.
Captain Fautrelle has delivered but 41.... They have given him notice of
missing boxes, but will they ever arrive?”

In his second letter, written two days later, he announced that Silas
Deane had been recalled and John Adams appointed to replace him. He
recommended Beaumarchais to put his affairs in order and get his
accounts regulated at once, “for,” said he, “Mr. Adams has the
reputation of being the first statesman on the continent and he has in
fact an air, _extrêmement fin_. I fear that, aided by his colleagues, he
may be disposed to play sharp with you. Be on your guard.

“The Colonel Langdon thinks that the affair of the officers has had
something to do with the recall of Deane. I am almost sure that it is
the work of that famous politician of Spain and Berlin, Arthur Lee. It
is he in part who has alienated Doctor Franklin from you, and no doubt
he will do what he can to have his opinion adopted by Deane’s
successor.”

“I have not yet been able to obtain direct news of your nephew but I am
assured that he is in the Army and well placed, and that he has received
honorable mention. As to his contract with Deane, I warn you not to
reckon upon that. I do not doubt that he will obtain by his own merits,
the grades which Mr. Deane promised him, but Congress will give no heed
to a contract made with him. Mr. Deane has far exceeded his powers in
granting commissions to officers who were recommended to him in the
beginning of his sojourn in France. He had not even the right to make a
lieutenant, consequently nearly all who came out with commissions signed
by him, and who have not wished to serve until they were placed, have
been obliged to return. If M. du Coudray had not died, they would have
been greatly embarrassed to place him.... Almost all our officers who
brought letters of recommendation, and have conducted themselves well,
have advantageous places. La Rouërie is colonel and much esteemed. The
Marquis de Lafayette has been wounded in the leg. This did not prevent
his keeping the saddle, however, all day. He cried, ‘There, I am
wounded, now I am content.’”

In the meantime, Beaumarchais had written to de Francy from Paris, “I
profit, my dear Francy, of every occasion to send you news; let it be
the same with you, I beg of you. Although it is to-day the 20th of
December, 1777, my largest ship has not yet set sail; but this is the
common lot of all merchantmen destined for America. The ministry fears
that our commerce will take away too many sailors at a time when the
state may have need of them from one day to another. The most rigorous
orders have been given in all the ports, and especially in the ports
where I arm. It seems that the force and capacity of my ships have made
Lord Stormont attack the ministry in a way to make them fear that he
suspects them of favoring an operation, which in truth, is carried on
without them and in spite of them. Ready to set sail, my artillery has
been taken from me, and the delay in getting it back or in forming
another is what detains me in port. I struggle against obstacles of
every kind, but as I struggle with all my force, I hope to conquer with
patience, and courage and very much money. The enormous loss which all
this occasions me seems to touch no one. The minister is inflexible;
there is no one, even to Messrs. the deputies at Passy, who do not
pretend to the honor of thwarting me,—me—the best friend of their
country. At the arrival of my vessel, the _Amphitrite_, which at last
unloaded at Lorient a small cargo of rice and indigo, they had the
injustice to seize upon it, saying that it was sent to them and not to
me; but, as M. de Voltaire has very well said, ‘Injustice in the end
produces independence.’ They have very probably taken my patience for
weakness, and my generosity for stupidity. In proportion as I have been
attached to the interests of America, in so far I have been offended by
the dishonest liberties which the deputies of Passy have wished to take
with me. I have written them a letter of which I send you a copy, and
which they have left without reply up to the present. While waiting, I
have left the cargo in the hands of MM. Berard brothers, of Lorient, and
in so doing I have not believed myself to have deviated in any way from
the frank and generous attitude I always have maintained towards
Congress, but simply to use my legitimate right in regard to the first
and very small return which they make upon an enormous advance; that
cargo is worth about 150,000 livres. You can see the great difference
between that drop, and the ocean of the debt owing me.” (Note of
Loménie, “Franklin and Lee, who in this instance acted in spite of
Deane, did not dare insist, and the cargo remained for Beaumarchais.”)

“As for you, my dear, I suppose you have arrived and that you have
obtained from Congress a reasonable adjustment, such as the situation of
America permits them to give. I hope that following my instructions, you
have obtained and will continue to obtain much tobacco, and I expect
that my vessels will find their return cargoes ready to be embarked as
soon as they arrive where you are. I still hope that if events should
retard my vessels still longer, that you will send me at least by _le
Flammand_ a ... cargo that will deliver me from the horrible pressure in
which I find myself.

“I do not know whether I flatter myself, but I count upon the honesty
and equity of Congress as I count upon mine or yours. The deputies here
are not in comfortable circumstances, and pressing need often make men
indelicate; this is the way I explain the injustice which they tried to
do me. I do not despair even of winning them back to me by the
gentleness of my remonstrances and the firmness of my conduct.”

Loménie says, “This explanation may seem strange ... but the fact is
that the deputies from America received no more remittances from
Congress than Beaumarchais. Silas Deane had been obliged to borrow from
the latter the funds absolutely necessary for his personal expenses.
Arthur Lee tried later to make use of this fact to inculpate Deane ...
but it has been well proved that necessity alone forced Deane to
contract the debt. As for Franklin, he was a little richer when he
landed in France, because he wrote to his colleague, Silas Deane, from
Quiberon, December, 1776; ‘Our vessel has brought indigo to the value of
about 3000 pounds sterling which will be at our orders to pay our
expenses.’ ...

“During the year 1777, the French Government itself gave money at
different times to the deputies at Passy, up to the moment when it
passed to them, through the Banker Grand, the two millions, which were
used partly to support the agents and under-agents of America in France,
and partly to buy munitions for Congress.”

To return to Beaumarchais’s letter:

   “It is very unfortunate my friend, for the cause of the colonies
   that their interests in France have been confided to several
   persons at once; a single one would have succeeded better. As for
   what regards myself I must do M. Deane the justice to say that he
   is ashamed and sorry both together, at the conduct of his
   colleagues with me, of which the blame belongs entirely to M.
   Lee.

   “I am having trouble also with the provincial Congress of South
   Carolina, and I wrote by L’Estargette to M. the President
   Rutledge demanding justice from himself to himself. L’Estargette,
   who will correspond with you, will inform you of the success
   which follows my just demands.

   “Across all these annoyances, the news from America overwhelms me
   with joy. Brave, brave people! whose military conduct justifies
   my esteem, and the beautiful enthusiasm felt for them in France.
   In a word, my friend, I only want returns in order to be in a
   condition to serve them anew, to meet all my engagements, so as
   to be able to make others in their favor.

   “It seems to me, from what I hear, that our French soldiers have
   done wonders in all the battles in Pennsylvania. It would have
   been a disgrace for me, for my country, for the name of a
   Frenchman, if their conduct had not been equal to the nobility of
   the cause they had espoused....

   “The City of London is in a terrible commotion; the ministry at
   bay—the opposition triumphant, and the King of France, like a
   powerful eagle, hovering above all these events, reserves to
   himself another moment of pleasure to see the two parties,
   divided between the hope and fear of his decision, which will
   have such a great weight in the quarrel of the two hemispheres.

   “To prescribe to you your conduct when you are three thousand
   miles from me would be foolishness ... serve me to the best of
   your ability is the only way to render yourself useful to me, to
   yourself, and to become interesting to the Americans themselves.

   “Do as I do; despise small considerations, small measures, small
   resentments. I have associated you in a magnificent cause; you
   are the agent of a just and generous man. Remember that success
   is always uncertain, that the money due me is at the risk of a
   great concourse of events, but that my reputation is my own, as
   you are to-day the artisan of yours. Let it be good my friend,
   then all will not be lost, even if everything else should be. I
   salute you, esteem you, and love you.”

In the postscriptum which follows, “we see Beaumarchais,” says Loménie,
“applying the resources of comedy to politics, and ingeniously
combining the means to elude the ministerial orders, as he would have
arranged a theatrical play.”

   “Here,” wrote Beaumarchais in the postscriptum, “is what I have
   thought out relative to my large vessel—_le Fier Roderigue_. I
   must keep my word given to M. de Maurepas, that my ship is to
   carry only seven or eight hundred soldiers to Santo Domingo, and
   that I will return without touching the continent. Nevertheless,
   its cargo is very valuable to Congress and to me; it consists in
   ready made clothing for the soldiers, cloth, blankets, etc. It
   carries an artillery of sixty-six bronze cannons, ... and much
   other merchandise.

   “After much thinking, it seems to me that you might arrange
   secretly with the committee of Congress, to send two or three
   American corsaires immediately to Santo Domingo. One of them will
   send its gun-boat to Cape Francis ... then M. Carabasse
   (Beaumarchais’s agent at the Cape) will go aboard her with M. de
   Montaut, the captain of my vessel _le Fier Roderigue_. They will
   arrange together that when my vessel sets out, the American
   Corsaire will capture it under any pretext he chooses, and carry
   it off. My captain will protest violently, and threaten to
   complain to Congress. The vessel will be taken to where you are.
   The Congress will disavow the brutal act, liberate my vessel,
   with obliging excuses for the French flag; during the time this
   takes, you will have unloaded the cargo quickly, and filled the
   ship with tobacco, and you will send her back to me with just
   what you have been able to gather together. As the bearer of
   this, M. Carmichaël, returns directly, you will have time to
   arrange this manœuver either with the Secret Committee of
   Congress, or directly with a friendly and discreet corsair. By
   this means, M. de Maurepas will be disengaged from his promise
   made to others, I from mine to him, because no one can oppose
   himself to violence, and my operation will have been successful
   in spite of all the obstacles which cross my path.... My vessel
   starts before the 15th of January. It bears orders to wait news
   from you at Cape Francis. After all that I am doing, the Congress
   cannot longer doubt, I hope, that the most zealous partisan of
   the republic in France is your friend

                                      “Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.”

Commenting upon the above letter, James Parton has written:

   “Such was Caron de Beaumarchais; unique among merchants and men.
   Whether it was by those or by other manœuvers that the ship was
   enabled to reach America, no one has informed us. Certain it is
   that she arrived safely at Yorktown, Virginia, and was loaded
   with tobacco for her return. I trust M. de Maurepas was
   satisfied.” (_Life of Franklin_, Vol. II, p. 271.)

The next letter in this series which has been preserved to us is from De
Francy and is dated May 14, 1778. In it he announced that it was the
twelfth since his arrival, all of which he feared had failed in reaching
their destination. Continuing his account of the disorderly consequences
of the depreciation of paper money, he said, “I have just extricated the
Marquis de Lafayette from a serious mistake into which he had fallen
unsuspectingly.

“You have, of course, heard of the excessive depreciation of paper
money. At one moment in Pennsylvania it reached the point of absolute
worthlessness. The expenses of the Marquis at this time, as he received
no pay, were absolutely enormous. He at first borrowed money on bills of
exchange at 2 for 1, afterwards at 3 for 1. He supposed that was
borrowing at the rate of $2 for $1 and $3 for $1; instead, the rate was
2 and 3 pounds Pennsylvania currency for 1 pound sterling. The pound
sterling was worth 34 shillings Pennsylvania currency. He had signed the
bills presented to him without reading them and his expenses far
exceeded the amount he supposed them to reach. I informed him of his
error and ... have advanced him very considerable sums on account of the
House ... my arrangement with him is that he shall reimburse the
principal in one year in Paris, paying 6 per cent., the same as Congress
allows you.”

The allowance of 6 per cent. made by Congress to Beaumarchais, to which
De Francy here alludes, had been settled in a contract drawn up the 6th
of April, 1778 duly signed, sealed and delivered to the indefatigable
agent, of which the following is the substance: (The contract in full is
given by Durand, p. 119-126 in his _New Material for the History of the
American Revolution_.)

   “To whom it May Concern:

   “Whereas, Roderigue Hortalès et Cie. have shipped or caused to be
   shipped ... considerable quantities of cannon, arms, ammunition,
   clothing, and other stores, most of which have been safely landed
   in America ... and Whereas as Roderigue Hortalès et Cie., willing
   and desirous to continue supplying those stores ... provided
   satisfactory assumption be made and assurance given for the
   payment in France of the just cost, charges, freight of the
   cargoes already shipped as well as those to be hereafter
   shipped....

   “Now know ye that John Baptist Lazarus Theveneau de Francy, agent
   of Peter Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, as representative of the
   house of said Roderigue Hortalès et Cie., by him especially
   appointed and empowered to act ... in virtue of the powers in him
   trusted, to contract, agree and engage to and with M. Ellery,
   Jas. Forbes, Wm. Henry Dayton, Wm. Hurer, Esq., a Committee of
   commerce, properly appointed and authorized by the delegates of
   the United States of America in Congress assembled to enter into,
   execute, ratify and confirm this contract for and in behalf of
   the said United States as follows:

   “1st. That the cost and charges of the cargoes already shipped
   shall be fairly stated in current prices ... at the date of
   shipment.

   “2nd. The freight to be charged agreeably to contract entered
   into by Caron de Beaumarchais, Silas Deane, and M. Monthieu.

   “3rd. All orders to be transmitted to Messrs. Roderigue Hortalès
   et Cie. or their agents, subject to the inspection and control of
   an agent appointed under the authority of Congress, who shall
   have liberty to inspect the quality of such merchandise.

   “4th. All articles hereafter shipped to be provided as nearly as
   possible to order ... and not higher than the current price ...
   attended with most moderate charges.

   “5th. Good ships shall be chartered or bought at moderate price
   for transportation of the stores.

   “6th. That agents appointed under the authority of Congress,
   shall have free liberty to inspect the quality, and require the
   prices of all articles to be shipped for the account of the
   United States, with power to reject such as they judge unfit or
   too high priced; they shall also be party in the charters and
   purchasing of ships to be employed in the service.

   “7th. Bills on the House of Roderigue Hortalès et Cie., for
   24,000,000 _livres tournois_, annually, shall be honored and
   paid....

   “In consideration whereof, the said William Ellery, James Forbes,
   William Henry Dayton, William Durer, Esq., Committee of Commerce
   for Congress ... agree and engage with Roderigue Hortalès et
   Cie., by their said agent as follows:

   “1st. That remittances shall be made by exports of American
   produce ... for the express purpose of discharging the debt
   already justly due, or thereafter to become justly due in
   consequence of this agreement....

   “2nd. That all cargoes ... for the discharge of said debt, be
   addressed to Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.... subject to the
   inspection and control of an agent appointed under the authority
   of congress, who shall have liberty to inspect the quality of
   such merchandise, assent to or reject the prices offered,
   postpone the sales and do everything for the interests of his
   constituents.

   “3rd. That the customary interest of France not exceeding 6 per
   cent. per annum shall be allowed on the debt already due, or that
   from time to time, shall be due to the said Roderigue Hortalès et
   Cie.

   “4th. That any payments of Continental Currency in America ...
   shall be computed at the current, and equitable course of
   exchange at the date of payment ... and interest to be discounted
   on the amount from that date.

   “5th. That remittances to be made for the purpose of discharging
   the debt now due, or to become due to the said Roderigue Hortalès
   et Cie., shall be made at such times and seasons, as shall be
   most convenient for the American interest, but are to continue
   until the entire debt, principal and interest, shall be fully and
   fairly discharged.

   “6th. That a commission of 2½ per cent. shall be allowed to
   the said Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.... on all charges and monies
   paid and disbursed by them for the account of the United States.

   “In witness whereof the contracting parties have hereunto set
   their hands and seals, this 16th day of April in the year of our
   Lord, 1778.

   Signed: “William Ellery,
            James Forbes,
            William Henry Dayton,
            William Durer,
            Jean Baptiste Lazarus Theveneau de Francy.

   Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of

                                             Charles Thomson,
                                           Secretary of Congress.”

[Illustration: ROBERT MORRIS]

Naturally enough, having obtained a contract of such precise
stipulations, signed, not as formerly, by an agent three thousand miles
from the seat of Congress, but by a committee chosen from the bosom of
that body, de Francy thought the greatest difficulty of his mission
already accomplished, and Beaumarchais, when he received the glad
tidings, set about with renewed vigor, the gathering together and
dispatching of supplies. The Americans, however, still found reasons for
delaying the fulfillment of their part of the contract; and it was only
after two more months of ceaseless activity that de Francy succeeded in
getting enough tobacco to freight the _Fier Roderigue_ for its return
voyage. Which cargo, the second that had reached Beaumarchais, was
destined when it arrived in France to be seized upon by Lee, as that of
the _Amphitrite_ had been, with the same results. In a letter to
Beaumarchais, June, 1778, de Francy announced the order which he had
received for the delivery of the tobacco, “The rest of the letter,” says
Bigelow, “is filled with complaints of the bad faith of these
republicans, who refuse him the vessels they had promised to carry off
his tobacco, and urges Beaumarchais to send out at least six himself.”

A letter dated July 11th is filled with still more bitter complaints.
“In spite of the most formal engagements,” he wrote, “these people find
the means of obstructing all business, the pretext for breaking promises
the most solemn.” In a word, he thinks it better to suspend business
until “laws better established put a bridle upon the bad faith which
reigns in the country.” A little later he wrote: “If this business were
to be continued, which I do not advise unless you have special reasons,
it would be one of the greatest commercial operations ever engaged in,
if one could only rely upon the good faith of these republicans. But
they have no principle and I desire sincerely to see all your accounts
closed with them.

“I believe Carmichaël is the only one who appreciates all you have done
for this country. He arrived at York two days ago, before I went to
Virginia. The moment of our meeting was one of the most agreeable that I
have passed in this country. We did not quit each other for two days.
During these two days, I rendered him a service by letting him into the
private character of all the members of Congress. I told him those who
were his friends, and those who were opposed to his nomination as
Secretary of Legation. In gratitude I hope he will serve you well.... I
made the President feel that your letter to M. Sartine clearly
demonstrated that the assertions of du Coudray and Lee were vile and
infamous lies. The force and energy of this letter astonished him. He
could not help saying to me that he would not have believed that anyone
could have written with such freedom to a minister in France....

“I believe Carmichaël is your friend; if I am mistaken, I never wish to
speak to an American again, as long as I live.” Then follows a most
doleful picture of the discord, selfishness, and greed, which seemed to
reign everywhere. Upon this part of the letter, Hon. J. Bigelow has
commented admirably. He says:

   “A little more experience with the world would probably have
   taught the young man that any crisis which puts in peril all that
   society undertakes to secure to us by its laws, uncovers our
   hearts to the world, strips bare our native selfishness of all
   its disguises, and makes us appear to each other, pretty nearly
   as bad as we must always appear to the angels. There is no doubt
   but the revolted colonists, struggling for their very existence,
   appeared disadvantageously to a sentimental enthusiast like de
   Francy, but we have yet to hear of any people while having so
   much at risk, appearing better.

   “Of course after having been kept so long without tobacco, and
   treated with undisguised distrust as a swindler or as the agent
   of one, de Francy takes very dyspeptic views of the men who
   compose the Continental Congress.”

As a matter of fact, he hits off one after another of our great heroes
with anything but the reverential tone which we are wont to use in
referring to them. “President Laurens,” he says, “is a very upright
merchant, but no more; in important affairs he is an old woman.” “Samuel
Adams is an old fox who has genius.” “The famous Hancock is precisely
the _Corbeau revêtu_.” “Robert Morris works for himself while working
for the Republic.” “General Washington,” here his tone changes, “has
honor, courage, and a truly disinterested patriotism.... I have seen
much of him and I really believe he is the first man on the continent,
although to tell you the truth, he is very difficult to know well....”

The unaccountably bad faith of Congress began to arouse the suspicions
of the agent of Beaumarchais, which he hastened to communicate to his
superior. On the 31st of July, 1778, de Francy wrote: “I have not been
able to obtain a perusal of the letters of Lee. Two of his brothers,
members of Congress, had possession of the foreign correspondence during
the past year, and they have abstracted all his letters for fear they
would be prejudicial to him; but I cannot doubt but you are there
painted in the blackest colors. I know at least that anonymous letters
were written against you, filled with lies, insults, and atrocities; and
what is of a marked fatality, your excessive zeal for the Americans has
been the basis of the lies of Lee, and of all the misgivings with regard
to you. Doubtless you recollect that at the commencement of 1776, while
you were in London, you promised this little doctor, then humble and
suppliant, that if the Americans fully decided never to reunite with
England, you would send out under the name of Roderigue Hortalès et
Cie., all the succor of which they would have need; and the enthusiasm
which then animated you, gave great latitude to your promise. At least,
the doctor so communicated it; and to give importance to what he said,
he made an ambassador of you, and instead of naming you, he remarked
that the promise came from the ambassador of France. Behold here the
origin of his elevation! His brothers have strongly supported his high
pretensions and he was named agent. He was obliged to maintain what he
had written, but fearing lest the reserve of the ministers towards the
agents in France should make Congress suspect that the French Ambassador
never had spoken to him in England, he abandoned his first assertion and
then wrote that it was you who called upon him in London to make him
such beautiful promises on the part of the French Minister. The Memoir
of du Coudray attests, on the other hand, that the minister put you
forward that he might disavow you if he desired. Congress readily
allowed itself to be persuaded that everything that arrived on your
vessels was a present, or at least a loan from your government which it
might acquit at its pleasure.

“When after my arrival at York, I announced my purpose and the
reclamations I came to make, I did not find a single member of Congress
disposed to believe that it was an individual who had rendered them such
signal services, and that he was to be paid for them, as it was
impossible to find on this continent a man who would ever have attempted
for the freedom of his country the one-hundredth part of what you have
done.... True Americans are infinitely rarer here than in Paris, and I
am satisfied there is not one whose zeal approaches yours.”

As a sample of what Lee had been writing to Congress, the few following
passages quoted at random, will suffice: “Upon this subject of returns I
think it my duty to say ... that the ministry have repeatedly assured me
that no returns are expected for these subsidies.” At another time he
wrote, speaking of a shipment just being made, “this is gratis as
formerly, and what has been sent I have paid for; so that those
merchants Hortalès et Cie. have no demand upon you; nor are you under
any necessity of sending effects to them, unless you think it a proper
market for some things, as it certainly is for fish.” (See _Vindication
of Arthur Lee_.)

“These assertions,” says Loménie (Vol. II, p. 178), “offering the
advantage of dispensing America from all gratitude and all payment to
Beaumarchais, Congress was naturally disposed to adopt.” It must be
remembered, however, that at this moment the party which upheld Arthur
Lee, headed by his two brothers and Samuel Adams, were at the height of
their power, so that the opposite side, in whose ranks stood the upright
and clear-sighted John Jay, was temporarily overruled.

Before inserting the last letter which we give of de Francy, a short
explanation is necessary. Already the reader has been apprised through
these letters, of the difficult position in which Silas Deane had been
placed, through the secret disavowal of his acts by Congress, even while
he still remained their credited commissioner in France. Unconscious of
the perfidy of Lee, yet thoroughly distrusting him, dismayed at the
attitude of Franklin, who explained nothing, but who took from the first
the part of ignoring all Deane’s previous transactions, the latter was
forced to submit for the present to this embarrassing state of affairs,
and to place his whole hope of adjustment in the equity of Congress in
which he still firmly believed. Slowly it began to dawn on him, that the
ground of his colleagues’ resentment to him was largely a matter of
money. In the beginning Deane, realizing to the full the lack of trained
military men among the insurgents, had freely promised commissions of
high rank, with proportionately high pay, to the French officers who
came to him well recommended and who had a desire to serve. As most of
these men were either unable or unwilling to provide their own equipment
and traveling expenses, Deane had advanced them money in the name of
Congress, but taking it, not from his own resources, for he had none,
but from those of his friend Beaumarchais, with the understanding, of
course, that it should all be repaid.

When Franklin arrived, Deane soon realized that repayment would be very
difficult, and dreading to face the effect which the whole truth would
have produced, he had begged Beaumarchais to delay sending in his
accounts until Congress should have ratified his agreements. This
Beaumarchais, with characteristic generosity, readily conceded. De
Francy wrote: “You appear still to have the blindest confidence in Deane
and you neglect your own interests.... Well, now, on February 16th, when
Deane passed the morning with you, they had written to Congress—(I have
seen the letter signed by the three agents)—that you got possession of
the cargo of the _Amphitrite_ contrary to their expectations, and that
they did not oppose it because their political situation did not permit
them to come to any explanation with you. They add that they had been
informed that you had sent an agent to Congress to solicit the payment
of a very considerable debt, but that it was not necessary to settle
anything with this agent; that the commercial venture to which it
related was a mixed business which it was necessary to sift before
closing the account; that they would occupy themselves with the
business, and that it was better to leave it with them to arrange with
you.

“I will make no reflections upon this transaction; I will only say that
it appears to me very extraordinary, an incredible weakness even, that
Mr. Deane should have consented to sign what it pleased his colleagues
to write, up to the very moment when you had the generosity to sacrifice
everything for him and he knew it. You can well imagine, that with such
news, doubts are reinforced, objections multiplied, etc., etc.”

Of the recall of Deane, already announced in a previous letter of De
Francy, we shall speak at length, in another chapter. For the present
let us return to France to follow Beaumarchais in his private career as
citizen.

It will be remembered that when, in 1776, the restored parliament had
annulled the decree of the parliament Maupeau, Beaumarchais had
petitioned the Ministers to obtain for him the adjournment of the final
decision in the matter of the suit instituted against him by the Comte
de la Blache so many years before. “This suit,” says Loménie (Vol. II,
p. 54), “which had been the origin of his tribulation, and of his
celebrity, still subsisted, and in the midst of his triumphs held his
fortune and his honor in check.... The Count de la Blache, seeing the
credit of his adversary so rapidly growing, urged on with all his force
the final decision. Beaumarchais was in less haste; occupied in
organizing his operations with America, and in reconquering his civil
existence, he did not wish to terminate the other case until he had
assured himself very well of his position.

“The decisive combat came off at Aix in July, 1778. The author of the
_Barbier de Séville_, accompanied by the faithful Gudin, started for
Provence. He was going at the same time to despatch two vessels from
Marseilles for the United States and to finish with the most desperate
of his enemies.”

“At Marseilles,” says Gudin in his memoir, “Beaumarchais covered the
part he played in public affairs, by the veil of amusements or his
private business.”

Of the memoirs which he published at Aix, in relation to this important
suit, Loménie has said: “They contain passages which are not below the
best to be found in the memoirs against Goëzman ... one feels a man who
is conscious of his power, who conducts vast operations, who enjoys a
great celebrity and who considers his social importance as equal at
least to that of a field-marshal.

“The city of Aix seemed predestined to famous lawsuits. In the same
place where Mirabeau was soon to come to give forth the first bellowings
of his eloquence, was seen to glitter the sparkling fancy of the
_Barbier de Séville_. Vainly, the Count de la Blache surrounded himself
with six lawyers, and prepared from very far back his triumph.... At the
end of a few days, Beaumarchais had conquered the public.”

“You have completely turned the city,” his attorney said to him. His
triumph was complete; a definite decree of Parliament disembarrassed
him forever of the Comte de la Blache. The latter was condemned to
execute the agreement drawn up and signed, du Verney, 1770.

“The affair,” says Gudin, “was examined with the most scrupulous
attention and judged after fifty-nine seances. The legatee, all of whose
demands were rejected, was condemned, and his memoirs were suppressed.”

Beaumarchais, in turn, was condemned to pay 1,000 _écus_ to the poor of
Aix as a punishment for the severe witticisms against his antagonist, in
which he had indulged in his memoirs. They were also publicly condemned.
Beaumarchais, however, was triumphant. Overwhelmed with joy to find his
honor and his fortune restored to him, he desired only that the good
people of Aix should rejoice with him. Instead, therefore, of the 1,000
_écus_ demanded of him, he instantly doubled the sum, requesting that it
might be distributed in dowries to twelve or fifteen poor, but worthy
young women; the benediction of so many families happily established
seeming to him the most beautiful which he could draw upon himself.

“The intoxication of this triumph, after so many years of uncertainty
and combat, the enthusiasm with which he was received by the people of
Aix,” are graphically described by Gudin in a letter written at the
moment of his triumph.

“All the city,” wrote Gudin, “which subsists on suits, was in a state of
the greatest impatience. While the judges deliberated, the doors of the
court house were besieged; women, idlers, and those interested, were
under the trees of a beautiful avenue not far off. The cafés, which
bordered this promenade, were also filled. The Comte de la Blache was in
his well lighted salon, which looked out on this avenue. Our friend was
in a quarter at some distance away. Night came; at last the doors of the
court house opened and these words were heard: ‘Beaumarchais has
gained;’ a thousand voices repeated them, the clapping of hands spread
down the avenue. Suddenly the windows and doors of the Comte were
closed, the crowd arrived with cries, and acclamations, at the house of
my friend; men, women, people who knew him and those who knew him not,
embraced him, and congratulated him; this universal joy, the cries and
transports overcame him, he burst into tears, and see him, like a great
baby, let himself fall fainting into my arms. It was then who could
succor him, who with vinegar, who with smelling salts, who with air;
but, as he himself has said, the sweet impressions of joy do no harm. He
soon returned to himself, and we went together to see and thank the
first president.... On returning ... we found the same crowd at the
house; tamborines, flutes, violins succeeded before and after supper;
all the fagots of the neighborhood were piled up and made a fire of
joy.... The mechanics of the place composed a song, and came in a body
to sing it under his windows. Every heart took part in his joy, and
everyone treated him like a celebrated man, to whose probity, due
justice had at length been rendered.”

Gudin’s enthusiasm for his friend was destined, however, to a singular
recompense. Arrived in Paris, he had composed a lengthy epistle to
Beaumarchais (Loménie II, p. 66), which began as follows:

“The severe justice of Parliament has confounded the malice of thy
enemies, though they had hoped that the dark art, which a _vile senator_
in unhappy times had made to incline the balance, would surprise the
prudence of our true magistrates.”

This chef-d’œuvre, composed of a hundred or more verses, had been
inserted in a copy of _Courrier de l’Europe_, which was published in
London, and which had altered the text by putting at the place of the
words, “of a _vile senator_”—“_a profane senate_,” so that the personal
allusion to the judge Goëzman was transformed into an allusion to the
whole parliament Maupeou. But most of the members of this judicial body
had gone back to their places in the grand council, from whence Maupeou
had drawn them. Irritated at the triumph of Beaumarchais, and not daring
to attack a man so strong in the favor of the public and the confidence
of the ministers, “they seized this opportunity of scourging
Beaumarchais over the back of his friend.”

The latter was absent from Paris, busy with the despatching of vessels
from one of the seaports, when, suddenly, a warrant, “issued,” says
Loménie, “without the slightest warning, came to surprise the pacific
Gudin.” As he sat at table one evening with his mother and niece, a
letter was handed him, which proved to be from a friend, Mme. Denis,
niece of Voltaire. He glanced it through and there read the startling
announcement: “You are about to be arrested, and that for verses printed
in the _Courrier de l’Europe_. You have not an instant to lose.”

“I lost none,” wrote Gudin. “Having read the letter, I quitted the table
without a word and passed into my room, where I hastily dressed myself,
and then took refuge at the house of Beaumarchais. I read the letter to
Mme. Beaumarchais....

“My first care was to send a messenger to prepare my mother for the
strange visit she was about to receive, and bidding her not to alarm
herself, and to reply that she did not know where I was, and that it was
possible I was with Beaumarchais at a hundred leagues from Paris.”

After calling about him several of his friends, men of experience, they
deliberated what was to be done. “Do not allow yourself to be taken,
these men of the grand council hate Beaumarchais, and are quite capable
of revenging themselves upon his friend....”

“I decided therefore to withdraw into the enclosure of the Temple. This
castle, ... so scandalously taken by Philipp the Bel from the Templars,
and since ceded to the Chevaliers of Malta, was at this time, owing to
the privileges of that order, an asylum, not for criminals, but for any
person, who, without having given serious offense, found himself in
difficulty, as for instance, a debt, a challenge, in a word, an affair
like the present. (The Temple, famous for being the stronghold in which
a few years later the royal family was imprisoned, and from which Louis
XVI was led to execution, was subsequently destroyed by Napoleon. It
stood near the present Place de la République. Much of its site is now
occupied by the _Magasins du Temple_, the great second-hand shops of
Paris.)

“The custom was to inscribe one’s name upon the bailiff’s register on
entering the Temple; he asked me why I had come to claim the privileges
of the place.

“‘Is it debts?’

“‘I have none.’

“‘An attack?’

“‘My enemies, if I have any, have never used any weapon against me
except their pen.’

“‘A quarrel at cards, or an affair with a woman?’

“‘I never play cards, and I have never caused either disorder in a
family, nor scandal in a house of joy.’

“‘But why then?’

“‘For verses, which grave personages do not find to be good, verses
printed I don’t know how in London, denounced, I don’t know why in
Paris, and which the grand council, who has not the control of books and
is in no way judge of what takes place in England, pretends to be
injurious to a tribunal which no longer exists.’”

“Beaumarchais, on his return to Paris, learned of my adventure, and was
justly angry. He came and took me from my retreat. ‘Be sure,’ he said,
‘they will not dare to arrest you in my carriage or in my house.’”

“At the end of several days,” says Loménie, “Beaumarchais had succeeded
in liberating his friend; nothing could paint better his situation at
this period than the tone of his letters to the ministers, especially to
the keeper of the seals:

“‘Monseigneur,’ he wrote, ‘I have the honor to address to you the
petition to the council of the King, of my friend Gudin de la
Brenellerie, who unites to the most attractive genius the simplicity of
a child, and who, in your quality of protector of the letters of France,
you would judge worthy of your protection if he had in addition the
honor of being known to you.’”

Beaumarchais thus was able to ignore the smoldering resentment of his
enemies and to press forward his vast enterprises. The war had now
broken out between France and England. French merchantmen went to sea
completely at the mercy of events. The French flag, instead of a
protection, was now a signal for attack. It was therefore clear that if
Beaumarchais was to continue his mercantile operations, it must be upon
a new basis. But before we follow him into the equipping of armed
vessels to protect his merchant fleet, let us linger a moment, that we
may gain a still nearer view of Beaumarchais, the man.

The popular enthusiasm which everywhere had welcomed the uprising
amongst the colonists continued to voice itself in every quarter of
France and on all occasions where it was a question of the rights of
man. The wild joy which had greeted the triumph of Beaumarchais at Aix
was due largely, Gudin tells us, to the fact that for the first time in
the annals of that city a nobleman had been so signally humiliated as
had been his antagonist. In this general desire for a recognition of
human rights, the aristocracy of France themselves took the lead.
Rousseau, calling so loudly for human beings, men and women, to leave
the lines marked out for them by authority and tradition and to return
to nature as their guide, was heard, not only in the remotest hamlet of
the realm, but his voice found echo in its lordly castles and its palace
halls. In _Emile_, he traced the revolution which was to take place in
the instruction and training of the child; in _La Nouvelle Heloïse_, he
laid down a scheme of morals, the teaching of which was directly opposed
to the Christian code. The effect of these teachings upon contemporary
France could not be more strikingly exemplified than in the following
letter addressed to Beaumarchais by a girl of seventeen. It gives at the
same time an idea of the confidence which the name of the latter
inspired among the masses of the people. The letter is written from Aix
and is dated not long after the successful termination of his suit:

   “Monsieur:

   “A young person crushed under the weight of her anguish, comes to
   you and seeks consolation. Your soul, which is known, reassures
   her for a step which she dares take, and which, were it anyone
   else, would remain without consequences. But are you not Monsieur
   de Beaumarchais, and do I not dare hope that you will deign to
   take my cause and direct the conduct of a young and inexperienced
   girl? I am myself that unfortunate who comes to lay her sorrows
   in your bosom; deign to open it to me. Allow yourself to be
   touched with the recital of my woes.... Ah! if there are hard
   hearts, yours is not of that number.... Shall I say to you,
   Monsieur, that I feel in you a more than ordinary confidence? You
   will not be offended; my heart tells me to follow that which it
   inspires. It tells me that you will not refuse me your succor.
   Yes, you will aid me, you will support despised innocence; I have
   been abandoned by a man to whom I have sacrificed myself. I avow,
   with tears that I yielded to love, to sentiment and not to
   vice.... I enjoyed a certain consideration; it has been taken
   from me. I am only seventeen, and my reputation is lost already.
   With a pure heart and honest inclinations I am despised by
   everyone. I cannot endure this idea; it overwhelms me and I am in
   despair.... Ah, Monsieur, lend me your aid, reach out to me your
   generous hand, cause to spring up in my oppressed soul, hope and
   consolation. I do not wish to injure the perfidious one who has
   betrayed me; no, I love him too much. It is at the foot of the
   throne that I wish to carry my plaint. If you will deign to aid
   me, I promise myself everything. You have powerful protectors,
   Monsieur; you know the Ministers, they respect you. Say to them
   that a young person implores their protection, that she sighs and
   groans night and day; that she desires only justice.... (The
   ungrateful one must in the end do me justice.) I can say without
   presumption that I am not unworthy of his tenderness. He opposes
   nothing to my happiness but my fortune, which is not sufficient
   to arrange his affairs, which are not in too good order. He has
   no aversion to me. There is nothing about me to inspire it. The
   only crime of which I am culpable is to have loved him too well.
   Do not abandon me, Monsieur; I put my destiny in your hands....
   If you are kind enough to reply to this, be so good as to address
   your letter to M. Vitalis, rue de Grand-Horloge, at Aix, and
   above the address simply to Mlle. Ninon. You will be so good as
   to pardon me, Monsieur, if I still hide my name.... I know that
   with you I have nothing to fear, but still a certain fear that I
   cannot conquer, that I would not know how to define, holds me
   back. You have connections in Aix; I am very well known here. In
   small towns one knows everything; you know how they talk. I
   implore you, do not divulge the confidence which I have taken the
   liberty of making to you.... Monsieur, I have the honor to be,
   with sentiments of the most perfect consideration, your very
   humble and very obedient servant,

                                                          “Ninon.”

[Illustration: THE TEMPLE]

“Let one imagine a similar letter,” says Loménie, “suddenly falling from
six hundred miles away, upon a man forty-six years of age, the busiest
man of France and Navarre, who had need to confer every morning with the
Ministers, who had forty ships on the seas, who pleaded against the
comedians, who was preparing a pamphlet against the English Government,
who was busy founding a bank, who dreamed of editing Voltaire; surely
this man would throw into the waste basket the sorrows of a young and
unknown girl. Not in the least. Beaumarchais had time for everything.
Here is his reply to Mlle. Ninon:

   “‘If you are really, young stranger, the author of the letter
   which I have received from you, I must conclude that you have as
   much intelligence as sensibility, but your condition and your
   sorrows are as well painted in this letter as the service which
   you expect of me is little. Your heart deceives you when it
   counsels you an act like the one which you dare conceive; for
   although your misfortune might secretly interest all sensible
   persons, its kind is not one whose remedy can be solicited at the
   foot of the throne. Thus, sweet and interesting Ninon, you
   should renounce a plan whose futility, your inexperience alone
   hides from you. But let me see how I can serve you. A half
   confidence leads to nothing and the true circumstances of an open
   avowal might perhaps furnish me the means of seeing how the
   obstacles may be removed which separate a lover from so charming
   a girl. But do not forget that in desiring me to keep the matter
   secret you have told me nothing. If you sincerely believe me the
   gallant man whom you invoke, you should not hesitate to confide
   to me your name, that of your lover, his position and yours, his
   character and the nature of his ambition; also, the difference in
   your fortunes, which seems to separate you from him.’ He next
   attempts to persuade the young girl to forget a man who has shown
   himself so unworthy of her regrets. ‘Forget him, and may this
   unhappy experience of yours hold you in guard against similar
   seductions. But if your heart cannot accept so austere a counsel,
   open it to me then entirely, that I may see, in studying all the
   connections, whether I can find some consolation to give you,
   some view which will be useful and agreeable.

   “‘I promise you my entire discretion, and I finish without
   compliment, because the most simple manner is the one that should
   inspire the most confidence. But hide nothing from me.

                                                   ‘Beaumarchais.’

“Mademoiselle Ninon,” continues Loménie, “asked for nothing better than
to unburden her poor heart; she addressed to Beaumarchais an avalanche
of letters of which several contain no less than twelve pages; she gave
her name, the name of her seducer, and recounts her little romance with
a curious mixture of naïveté, of precocity, sensitiveness, intelligence
and garrulity. This _Provençale_ of seventeen is literally saturated
with the _Nouvelle Heloïse_.

“‘Fatal house,’ she cried, in speaking of the place where she first met
her lover, ‘’tis thou which causes my pains.’ She has all its
contradictions, ... protesting that if she has left the path of virtue,
she has only all the more felt the worth of a pure and virtuous soul.
‘Lovely innocence,’ she cried, ‘have I lost thee? Ah! no, no; I have
sounded to the remotest depths of my heart; it is too sensitive, but it
is still honest. I implore you, Monsieur, do not believe it corrupt.’

“Whether,” continues Loménie, “these rather wordy dissertations of the
little philosopher in skirts gave to Beaumarchais the idea that it would
be too difficult to correct such an exalted brain, or whether it was
that the work which was crushing him on every side prevented his
following this strange correspondence, true it is that he replied no
more to the long letters of Mlle. Ninon, although she addressed to him
the most melancholy reproaches. But what could he do? The war had just
broken out between France and England. Beaumarchais, who had had his own
part in bringing about that result, was engaged himself in the conflict;
he drew up political memoirs, he armed vessels; where could he find the
time to reply to the confidences of Mademoiselle Ninon? Nevertheless it
would seem that these letters interested him because he has classed them
in a package by themselves, upon which he has written with his own hand:
‘Letters of Ninon, or affair of my young client, unknown to me.’”



CHAPTER XXII


“_After the perplexing and embarrassing scenes you have just had to pass
through, it must give you the most solid joy to see an armament going
out to America.... I congratulate you on this great and glorious event,
to which you have contributed more than any other person._”

   “_Silas Deane to Beaumarchais._”
   _March 29, 1778._


“_It seems to me that we cannot consistently with our own honor or
self-respect pay off an undisputed debt with a doubtful or disputed
gift._”

_Speech of Mr. Tucker of Virginia, Relative to the Claims of
Beaumarchais, 1824._


   Deane’s Recall—Beaumarchais’s Activity in Obtaining for Him
     Honorable Escort—Letters to Congress—Reception of
     Deane—Preoccupation of Congress at the Moment of His
     Return—Arnold and Deane in Philadelphia the Summer of
     1778—Deane’s Subsequent Conduct—Letters of Carmichaël and
     Beaumarchais—Le Fier Roderigue—Silas Deane Returns to Settle
     Accounts—Debate Over the “Lost Million”—True Story of the “Lost
     Million”—Mr. Tucker’s Speech—Final Settlement of the Claim of the
     Heirs of Beaumarchais.


In accounting for the recall of Deane, Wharton, in the beginning of his
Diplomatic Correspondence, Vol. I, p. 560, says:

“Deane had, or was supposed to have had, a considerable amount of
business patronage which to Arthur Lee’s eye gave too much opportunity
for speculation, and not only did he suppose that Deane made use of this
opportunity for his own benefit, but he himself desired to have the
entire control of the business side of the mission placed in the hands
of his brother William Lee, then, through the influence of Wilkes,
alderman of London. The close connection which existed between Lee in
Paris and the center of the opposition in London was not unknown to the
French Ministry.”

From the first, Vergennes had distrusted Lee, and held him at a
distance. “Having had occasion,” says Loménie (Vol. I, p. 115), “to
study closely the work of the deputation at Passy, I am able to affirm
that Lee never had any credit with the French Government, who, rightly
or wrongly, suspected him of having secret relations with the English
Cabinet.... It is this which perfectly explains his permanent irritation
against his two colleagues.”

Doniol (Vol. I, p. 368) affirms positively, “spies of the foreign office
were in communication with him and he aided them to arrive even to M. de
Vergennes.”

“In his heart,” continues Doniol, “he had an antipathy for France, which
was shared by the majority of his countrymen. He was willing to accept
everything from us, but on condition that no obligation be incurred.”

“It is certainly not too much to say,” says Jared Sparks in his _Life of
Franklin_ (Vol. I, p. 450), “that the divisions and feuds which reigned
for a long time in Congress with respect to the foreign affairs of the
United States are to be ascribed more to Lee’s malign influence than to
all others.”

It was the same that at the most perilous moment of the war, which was
precisely this same winter of 1778, was exerting itself to the utmost of
its power to place a creature of its own at the head of the American
forces. So bitter had party spirit become, that a member from New
England, whose patriotism was undisputed, had allowed himself to write
in a letter which has been preserved: “I would rather that the whole
cause should come to ruin, than that Mr. Washington should triumph.”

Lee succeeded so well in poisoning the minds of Congress with regard to
their commissioner that after much discussion a resolution was passed on
December 8, 1777, recalling Deane. The reason given being the importance
of obtaining information as to the true state of affairs in Europe.

“It was originally proposed,” says Parton (_Life of Franklin_, Vol. I,
p. 250), “to accompany the resolution of recall by a preamble of
censure. But John Jay took the defence of his absent friend and
succeeded in getting the offensive preamble condemning a servant of the
public unheard, stricken out.” “In this case,” continues Parton, “Jay
was warmly his friend and defender, and not on this occasion only, but
whenever he was attacked by Congress.”

Franklin also warmly pleaded his cause by letter. Knowing that Congress
had received unfavorably the foreign officers sent over by Deane, he
wrote as follows:

“I, who am on the spot, and who know the infinite difficulty of
resisting the powerful solicitations of great men, ... I hope that
favorable allowances will be made to my worthy colleague on account of
his situation at that time, as he long since has corrected the mistake
and daily proves himself to my certain knowledge an able, faithful,
active and extremely useful servant of the public.” (Parton, _Life of
Franklin_, Vol. II, p. 350.)

Franklin indeed might well plead for his friend in regard to the
commissioning of officers, since, as has been seen, it was he who was
responsible for the departure of du Coudray for America.

When the news of his recall reached Deane, he was filled with
consternation. It was easy for him to pierce the thin veil of the reason
given. The treatment which he already had received from Congress seemed
the guarantee of further trouble.

He at once communicated his fears to Beaumarchais and his resolution not
to return to America until a satisfactory explanation of the charges
held against him were given. Beaumarchais, however, warmly urged his
complying with the command of Congress, assuring him that his presence
and the positive proof of his integrity which he would bear with him
quickly would dispel the gathering storm.

Deane seems to have been convinced that the wisest course would be to
yield to authority; accordingly, he at once set about his preparations
for the journey. Beaumarchais, equally active, addressed a lengthy
memoir to the ministers.

The memoir is given in full in the Deane papers (Vol. II, p. 399). In
it, with characteristic boldness, he prescribes the rôle necessary for
each minister to play, in order that Deane’s enemies may be outwitted.
Though Beaumarchais was no longer entrusted with the millions which were
being handed over to the Americans, yet from the tone of his memoir
there can be no doubt that he was still an indulged favorite.

   “March 13, 1778.

   “Secret Memoir to the King’s Ministers, Sent to the Comte de
   Vergennes:”

   (After explaining clearly the character and ambitions of Lee, his
   English connections, his influence in Congress, Beaumarchais
   continued:) “To succeed in his design, it was necessary to
   dispose of a colleague so formidable as Mr. Deane. This he has
   done by rendering him in many respects an object of suspicion to
   Congress.

   “Having learned that foreign officers demanding commissions were
   not received favorably by the American Army, he put the worst
   construction upon the conduct of his colleague who sent them,
   maintaining that Mr. Deane arbitrarily and in spite of good
   advice, was responsible for the sending.... Another reason is the
   officious zeal displayed by M. Lee in constantly writing to
   Congress that all merchandise, etc., was a present.... Nothing
   then is easier than for the adroit Lee to blacken the conduct of
   Mr. Deane by representing it as the result of underhand measures
   contrived to support demands for money in which he expected to
   share; and this explains the silence, more than astonishing, that
   Congress has observed in regard to over ten letters of mine full
   of details.”

Then he draws a faithful picture of Deane’s situation and speaks of his
having at first formed the determination not to return until charges
should be communicated to him.

   “I have, however, urged him to go back to face the storm. ‘Lee,’
   I have said, ‘accuses you of having arbitrarily sent officers to
   America; your complete defense is in my portfolio. I have in my
   possession a cipher letter from this time-serving Lee, urging me
   to send engineers and officers to the assistance of America, and
   the letter is written before your arrival in France.’”

Then he urged the importance for French interests to have so true and
tried a friend as Mr. Deane back in America.

   “I would desire,” he wrote, “a particular mark of distinction,
   even the King’s portrait or some such noticeable present to
   convince his countrymen that not only was he a creditable and
   faithful agent, but that his personality, prudence and action
   always have pleased the French Ministry.... I strongly recommend
   his being escorted by a fleet.... Once justified before
   Congress, his opinion becomes of immense weight and influence....
   His enemies will remain dazed and humiliated at their own
   failure.... Should the ministry be unable to grant a fleet as he
   wishes, he ought at least to have a royal frigate to be furnished
   by M. de Sartine. His friend Beaumarchais will with pleasure
   undertake the composition of an explanatory and defensive memoir.
   He should have a testimonial, laudatory of his conduct, and this
   important writing is the province of the Comte de Vergennes.
   Finally I believe that there should be accorded to him some
   special favor, showing the esteem entertained for him personally
   and this would properly come from M. le Comte de Maurepas in the
   name of the king. (This seems to have been the only suggestion
   not carried out by the ministers.)

   “There is not a moment to lose....”

Beaumarchais then recommended that everyone assume a dejected air at the
news of Deane’s recall, so that the enemies of the latter might be
thrown off their guard. “If it is thought advisable, I will even quit
Paris as one driven to despair. My lawsuit at Aix will furnish an
excellent excuse. I suggest in addition that a reliable person accompany
Mr. Deane, to return in the same frigate under order to await his
convenience, bringing back the result of M. Deane’s labors with
Congress....

“Upon the assurance that these considerations be regarded as just, I
will neglect everything else until I have completely vindicated Mr.
Deane.”

If anything could be more curious than the tone of the above memoir, it
is the docility with which each minister filled the rôle mapped out for
him. Not only was the portrait of the King with the personal
testimonials given to Deane, but a fleet was sent out under the popular
Comte d’Estaing to bear him safely to America, and with him the first
minister sent by France to the new world went as his companion, charged
with orders to follow closely his interests in the ensuing combat.

To the president of Congress he bore the following letter from the Comte
de Vergennes:

   “Versailles, March 25, 1778.

   “Monsieur Deane being about to return to America, I seize this
   occasion with pleasure to give my testimony to the zeal, activity
   and intelligence with which he has conducted the interests of the
   United States and for which it has pleased his Majesty to give
   marks of his satisfaction.”

To Deane himself Vergennes wrote the same day:

   “March 26, 1778.

   “As I am not, Sir, to have the honor of seeing you again before
   your departure I pray you to receive here my wishes that your
   voyage may be speedy, short, and happy, and that you may find in
   your own country the same sentiments which you inspired in
   France. You could not, sir, desire anything to be added to that
   which I feel for you and which I shall keep as long as I live.
   The King, in order to give a personal proof of the satisfaction
   which he has had in your conduct, charged me to communicate it to
   the Congress of the United States. This is the object of the
   letter which Mr. Gérard will give you for Mr. Hancock. He will
   also give you a box ornamented with a portrait of the king. You
   will not refuse to carry into your country the image of its best
   friend.”

On the 23rd of March, Beaumarchais had written to Congress in a letter
in which he set forth the proofs in his possession of the innocence of
Deane.

   “These, gentlemen,” he wrote, “were the real motives that
   determined us both in sending you the officers. As I have never
   treated with any other, as my firm never has transacted business
   with any other in France, and as the other commissioners have
   been lacking even in common civility towards me, I testify that
   if my zeal, my advances of money, and my shipments of supplies
   and merchandise have been acceptable to the august Congress,
   their gratitude is due to the indefatigable exertions of Mr.
   Deane throughout this commercial affair.

   “I hope that the honorable Congress, rejecting the insinuations
   of others, who are desirous of appropriating for themselves the
   credit of the operations, will accept in perfect faith the
   present declaration of the man most capable of enlightening them
   and who respectfully signs himself and his firm, gentlemen,
   yours, etc.

                                           “Caron de Beaumarchais,

   “Secretary to the King and Lieutenant-General of the King’s
      Hunt, known in America under the title of his firm, Roderigue
      Hortalès et Cie.”

Before quitting France, Silas Deane addressed a letter to Beaumarchais,
dated March 29, 1778. Obliged to quit France during the absence of his
friend, he wrote thanking him for his letter to Congress, which he hoped
would throw light upon the vexed question. “It is unhappy,” he said,

   “that the short time allowed me to prepare for my voyage will not
   admit of our making at least a general settlement of our
   accounts.... I hope to return to France early in the fall;
   immediately after my return it shall be my first business to
   adjust and settle with you the account for your several
   expeditions and disbursements.... After the perplexing and
   embarrassing scenes you have had to pass through, it must give
   you the most solid joy to see an armament going out which will
   convince America and the world of the sincere friendship of
   France, and their resolution to protect its liberties and its
   independence.

   “I again congratulate you on this great and glorious event, to
   which you have contributed more than any other person....

   “I shall improve my first opportunity of writing to you, and rely
   on being honored with a continuance of your correspondence and
   friendship. Wishing that you ever may be happy and fortunate, I
   am, etc.,

                                                    “Silas Deane.”

The misgivings which had haunted the American commissioner seemed
entirely to disappear during his voyage, so confident was he of being
able to justify himself before Congress, and if ever commissioner had
the right to look forward with joy to setting foot again on his native
land, that commissioner was Deane. When he had gone out two years
previously he had left his country poor, unrecognized and not yet
decided to declare its independence. By his unhesitating and
indefatigable zeal, aided by that of Beaumarchais, supplies and officers
of priceless value had been sent to its aid, arriving at the moment when
they were most needed.

Mistakes had been made, it is true, but those mistakes were all of a
nature that no man of honor need blush to acknowledge. Far from having
enriched himself during those two years of service, he had spent not
only all his own private savings, but had been obliged to draw very
heavily upon the generosity of his friend, since all the stores brought
with him from America had fallen into the hands of the English. In the
words of Parton, “He was returning now the acknowledged minister of a
victorious nation, the honored guest of a French Admiral, bringing back
a powerful fleet (twelve line of battleships and four frigates) to aid
his country, and accompanied by an ambassador of the King of France!
Well might he write exultingly to the president of Congress, well might
he expect a warm welcome and a hasty adjustment of his claims; as the
proud French vessel was dropping anchor in Delaware Bay, July 10, 1778,
he wrote: ‘I shall embark this afternoon ... and I hope soon to have the
honor of presenting my respects to your Excellency and the Honorable
Congress in person....’

No reply came to him from Congress. No one paid him the smallest
attention. His testimonials were ignored and even the presence of the
French fleet had no power to rouse Congress from a stony indifference.
He was in despair.

“He had brought with him,” said Parton, “only a hundred pounds, not
expecting to be detained in America many weeks. When at last given
audience, he told his story to distrustful and estranged employers. All
the friends of Arthur Lee, all the ancient foes of France, and a large
proportion of the faction who desired to put Horatio Gates into the
place of Washington, were disposed to believe the foul calumnies sent
over by every ship from Paris.”

As a matter of fact the time of his arrival in Philadelphia was not well
suited to a fair consideration of Deane’s claims. The city recently had
been evacuated by the British Army. During the occupation, Toryism had
been rampant and the state was retaliating with indictments for treason.
Disputes over questions of jurisdiction engaged the civil authorities in
quarrels with Arnold, the commander of the garrison, who numbered among
his sympathizers Silas Deane and the mercantile class.

Arnold, after his brilliant exploits at Saratoga, had seen himself
thrust aside at the moment of victory to make way for Gates. Wounded at
Saratoga, and burning for revenge, Arnold was already so much disgusted
with the Continental Congress that he began seriously to wish to see
Great Britain triumph.

Washington had put him in command of the garrison at Philadelphia in
June, 1778. The reigning belle of the Quaker City was at that moment
Miss Margaret Shippen, “the most beautiful and fascinating woman in
America.” She was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, who along with his
whole class, was eager for the war to come to an end through a speedy
adjustment with Great Britain, whose liberal offers, since the surrender
of Burgoyne, seemed more than satisfactory to their moderate patriotism.

No sooner had Arnold entered into his new post than he fell a captive to
the charms of the young woman in question, then under twenty years of
age.

“As no one kept a finer stable of horses, nor gave more costly dinners
than Arnold,” it was natural that he should invite the Tory friends of
the young lady whose hand he hoped to win. Although he was “thirty-five
years of age and a widower with two sons” ... his handsome face, his
gallant bearing and his splendid career, made him acceptable. In the
fall their engagement was publicly announced, while the Tory sentiments
of the commander of the fort of Philadelphia became definitely fixed.

The bitterness of his own grievances against Congress led him to give
ear willingly to the complaints poured out by the exasperated French
commissioner, whose patriotism was also rapidly vanishing in the gulf of
his private wrongs.

It was during this summer of association between Arnold and Deane that
the sentiments of the latter underwent the profound change which induced
a subsequent conduct so disappointing to his dearest friends. Silas
Deane never has been accused of treason to his country, for he was
incapable of such an act as that which rendered Arnold an object of
contempt to our enemies even—but that he was untrue to his own past
cannot be denied. No one in the beginning had been a warmer advocate of
independence or had worked so indefatigably for an alliance with France.
In the end, this was completely reversed. The unfortunate course which
he took to avenge himself for the atrocious wrongs heaped upon him by
the party in Congress then in power led him to exile, where he died
destitute and dishonored. However, “the most bitter reproach,” says
Wharton, “ever heaped upon this loyal patriot was that he had joined
hands in friendship with the traitor Arnold.”

While the condemnation of Lee at the bar of history seems unanimous, it
is unfair to allow the blame of his conduct to rest wholly upon him, for
it must be shared by that party in Congress which was dominant during
most of the existence of the body, and which supported the pretensions
of Lee and shared his antagonisms.

A consideration of the complex causes which led to the ruin of Deane is
in place here, only as these causes relate to his connection with
Beaumarchais. Up to a certain point the credit of the two men is
inseparable, and it must not be forgotten that the same party which
planned Deane’s downfall was also the one that tried to prevent the
alliance with France, and was unwilling to admit any debt of gratitude
to Roderigue Hortalès et Cie.

Gérard de Rayneval, first ambassador of France to America, who
accompanied Deane on the occasion of his recall, attributes the action
of Congress at this time to an “_esprit d’ostracisme_, which,” he says,
“already has begun to make itself felt against those men who, having
rendered important services, are no longer deemed necessary....”

The private secretary of Deane while in France, W. Carmichaël, had
returned to America some time before. Having aided Beaumarchais and
Deane in the shipment of supplies to the new world, there was no one who
understood better the exact nature of the difficulties against which
they had labored, or the real debt of gratitude owed them by America.
Under date of September 3, 1778, he wrote to Beaumarchais from
Philadelphia:

   “I have written you twice lately about your affairs, so that I
   have the pleasure of repeating that Congress begins to feel its
   lack of attention to you and to realize that it was too ready to
   believe the base insinuations of others, which I truly believe
   would have had no weight if du Coudray had not circulated such
   prejudicial reports concerning you.... I have applied myself with
   my whole power to convince my compatriots of the injustice and
   ingratitude with which you have been treated and this before the
   arrival of Deane, and I flatter myself to have had some success.
   His efforts have been the same, so that justice, although tardy,
   should now prevail. I wish for the honor of my compatriots that
   it had never been necessary for us to plead for you.

   “M. de Francy is in Virginia and works sincerely and
   indefatigably for your interests. I expect him here soon.

   “Your nephew spent several weeks with me, but is now commanded
   with his general to join the army under the orders of General
   Sullivan. He is a brave young man who makes himself loved very
   much when he is known; he has all the vivacity of his age and
   desires to distinguish himself. General Conway assures me that he
   conducted himself like a young hero at the battle of the
   Brandywine. I take the liberty of entering into these details
   because I know they will delight his mother, since bravery always
   has been a powerful recommendation to the fair sex, and she will
   be charmed to find so much in her own son.... I do not know
   whether I shall be continued in my place as Secretary of the
   Embassy at your court, or be employed in some other department.

   “Dr. Franklin certainly will be continued at the Court of
   Versailles, and an attempt will be made to force the Lees to fall
   back into the obscurity from which they have lifted themselves,
   but whether this will succeed is doubtful. We have as many
   intrigues and cabals here as you and your friends suffer from on
   the other continent. And why not? Are we not sovereign states and
   are we not friends and allies of Louis XVI?

   “I beg you to believe me always, Yours,

                                                  “W. Carmichaël.”

The spirit of the letter, as well as the news it brought, must have been
consoling to the heart of Beaumarchais. But in the meantime, he had been
pushing forward his vast commercial enterprises and with his usual vigor
prepared himself for new dangers to which the open alliance with France
exposed his undertaking. He wrote to De Francy:

   “I am dispatching the _Zephyr_, so that you may know that I am
   ready to put to sea a fleet of more than twelve vessels at whose
   head is _le Fier Roderigue_, which you sent back to me and which
   arrived safely the first of October. This fleet will carry six
   thousand tons, and it is armed absolutely for war. So arrange
   yourself in consequence. If my ship, the _Ferragus_, leaves
   Rochefort in September, keep it there to join my fleet in
   returning. This is an armament which I hold in common with M. de
   Montieu.... Allow the ships to remain in port no longer than is
   absolutely necessary, for although strong and well armed, our
   enemies must not be allowed to interfere with their return.

   “They will not arrive until some time in February, as they are to
   make a detour to provision our colonies with flour and salt
   provisions, of which they are in great need, and the payment of
   which, sent to us in bills of exchange upon our treasurers before
   the return of the fleet, will enable us to meet the terrible
   outlay which this armament costs us.... You will receive by the
   _Fier Roderigue_ all my accounts with Congress.... The result is
   that Congress will pay for nothing which it does not receive, or
   that was destroyed en route. I join the exact account of what I
   have received from Congress, in spite of the unjust deputation at
   Passy who have disputed every return cargo and who would have
   seized upon that of _La Thérèse_ if M. Pelletier, instructed by
   me, had not sold it by authority. This perpetual injustice makes
   me indignant and has made me take the resolution to have no more
   to do with the deputation as long as that rogue Lee is there....

   “I have been promised, my dear Francy, your commission of
   captain. I hope to be happy enough to send it by _le Fier
   Roderigue_, but do not count upon it until you see it in your
   hands. You know our country; it is so vast that it is a long way
   from the place where things are promised to the place where they
   are given. In a word, I have not received it yet, although it has
   been promised....

   “I have received no other money from the comte de Pulaski than
   that which he himself gave me. I send you his exact account. He
   should write me but I have heard nothing. I approve of what you
   have done for M. de Lafayette. Brave young man that he is. It is
   to serve me as I desire, to oblige a man of his character. I have
   not yet been paid for the money I advanced to him but I have no
   uneasiness about that.

   “As for you my dear de Francy, I will write you later what I will
   do for you. If you know me, you will expect to be well treated.
   Your fate is hence forth attached to mine. I esteem you and love
   you and you will not have long to wait for the proof of it.
   Remember me often to Baron von Steuben. I congratulate myself
   after all I hear of him, for having given so great an officer to
   my friends the _free men_, and for having in a way forced him to
   follow that noble career. I am not in the least disturbed by the
   money I lent him. Never have I made a use of funds the investment
   of which gratified me as much as this does, since I have
   succeeded in putting a man of honor in his true place. I learn
   that he is inspector-general of all the troops; bravo! Tell him
   that his glory is the interest on my money and at that title I
   have no doubt he will repay me with usury.

   “I have received a letter from M. Deane and also one from Mr.
   Carmichaël; assure them of my warm esteem. Those two are brave
   republicans. They have given me the hope that I may soon embrace
   them both in Paris, which will not, however, prevent me from
   writing them by the _Fier Roderigue_, who is very proud to find
   himself at the head of a small squadron, and who I hope will _ne
   se laissera pas couper les moustaches_, on the contrary he
   promises to do some cutting for me,

   “Adieu, my Francy, I am yours for life,

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”

Silas Deane returned to France in 1781, to settle all his accounts. On
the 6th of April of that year the indebtedness to Beaumarchais by
Congress was fixed by him at 3,600,000 _livres_ after the deduction of
all receipts and comprising the interest promised. This sum, then,
Beaumarchais demanded of Congress.

[Illustration: CÆSAR AUGUSTUS RODNEY

_Attorney General of the U. S._]

Two years passed. Congress paid no attention to the demand. In 1783,
another emissary, Mr. Barclay, arrived from America in the capacity of
consul-general, and with the mission to revise all the accounts rendered
by Silas Deane. Beaumarchais refused to submit to this treatment, but
Mr. Barclay told him Congress would pay nothing until there had been a
new inspection of the accounts. After a year Beaumarchais was forced to
submit.

In revising the statement made by Deane, Mr. Barclay admitted all the
claims, but gratified Congress by lessening commissions, expenses, etc.
Still Congress refused to pay the new and reduced accounts. Soon after
this, an incident arose which determined Congress to postpone payment
indefinitely.

In the fall of 1783, after signing the treaty which ended the war, the
United States wished to borrow six millions from the French Government.
It was decided to grant the request and at the same time to make an
exact recapitulation of all the sums already furnished, whether loaned
or presented.

In the first class were announced eighteen millions; then another loan
of ten millions from Holland, guaranteed by the king of France and of
which he paid the interest; finally the six millions about to be loaned.
This constituted a sum of thirty-four millions which the United States
promised to refund at future times. Finally the King announced as a
gift, the three millions conveyed to the colonists before her treaty of
Alliance in 1778, and six millions given in 1781. It was therefore nine
millions which the king of France relinquished without expecting any
return, and this in addition to the enormous expenditure made in sending
the fleets and armies of France to America. (See _Loménie_ Vol II, p.
186.)

The statement was signed by Franklin and received without comment by
the United States, but three years later, in 1786, Franklin made the
discovery that the king of France stated that three millions had been
given to the cause of independence in America before 1778, whereas he,
Franklin, had received but two millions.

What had become of the other million?

Inquiry was at once made of the United States banker in France, and an
explanation demanded. After much difficulty it was learned that this
million was one delivered by the royal treasurer on the 10th of June,
1776.

“It was,” says M. de Loménie, “precisely the million given to
Beaumarchais, but the reticence of Vergennes showed that an embarrassing
mistake had been made, though unconsciously, by the royal treasurer.”

It was impossible in 1786 for the French government to avow the secret
aid she had given to the colonies before her open recognition of
American Independence. The two millions given to Franklin in 1777
through the banker, Grand, after France had decided upon the policy of
open recognition, but before the act, had never been a secret—but the
million given to Beaumarchais, while really intended to help the
American cause, had been conveyed to him under stress of secrecy at a
time when it was unsafe to submit to writing even the most informal
engagement in regard to it.

Whatever the stipulations made concerning the use of the money, they
were verbal and have never been revealed. Nothing could attest the
profound confidence inspired in the magistracy by Beaumarchais more than
this absence of documents relative to the loan. There can be no doubt
that whatever the arrangement made by Vergennes, he was satisfied with
the account rendered him by Beaumarchais, for we find him coming
repeatedly to the latter’s aid when the failure of Congress to return
cargoes, placed the house of Hortalès and Company in danger of
bankruptcy. The confidence of the minister is also further attested by
his refusal to deliver the receipt for the million, signed by
Beaumarchais, on the 10th of June, 1776, and so become a handle to the
calumny which Congress was directing against him.

To summarize the exposition of that conscientious historian, Loménie:
“Why,” he asks, “did the government insert this million in the list of
those given directly to America? Was it simply a recapitulation of the
accounts of the treasury made without thought of the inconvenience that
might result for Beaumarchais; or did the government really intend
Beaumarchais to render an account of it to the United States?... We have
the right to affirm that the government never intended that he should be
accountable for it to anyone but to the minister.

“By refusing constantly to name the person to whom the million had been
given, the minister said implicitly; ‘I class this million with those
given gratuitously because in effect it was given; but since it was not
given to you, and as the man to whom it was given, engaged himself by
his receipt to render an account of it to me, and not to you, that man
cannot be accountable except to me. If I asked to have the million
returned, you would then have the right to demand it of him who received
it; but since I ask nothing, I am the one to decide whether that
million, gratuitously given by me, shall profit you or the man to whom I
gave it. It was given to aid in a secret operation very useful to you,
but which, by your refusal to acquit and by losses which he has
experienced in his commerce with you, seems to have been more harmful
than fruitful to him.’” (See _Loménie_, Vol. II, p. 190.)

Of all this that was transpiring Beaumarchais knew nothing, nor could he
obtain from Congress any explanation of their reason for totally
ignoring their debt to him. At last his patience at an end, on the 12th
of June, 1787, he wrote to the President of Congress as follows:

   “A people become sovereign and powerful may be permitted,
   perhaps, to consider gratitude as a virtue of individuals which
   is beneath politics; but nothing can dispense a state from being
   just, and especially from paying its debts. I dare hope,
   Monsieur, that touched by the importance of the affair and by the
   force of my reasons, you will be good enough to honor me with an
   official report as to the decision of the honorable Congress
   either to arrange promptly to liquify my accounts, or else to
   choose arbiters in Europe to decide the points debated, those of
   insurance and commission as M. Barclay had the honor of proposing
   to you in 1785; or else write me candidly that the sovereign
   states of America, forgetting my past services, refuse me all
   justice: thus I shall adopt the method best suited to my
   interests which you have despised, to my honor which you have
   wounded, although without losing the profound respect with which
   I am of the General Congress and of you, Monsieur le President,
   the very humble, etc.

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”

It was at this juncture that Beaumarchais, stung by the reproaches of
his own countrymen, made a ringing vindication of his acts in the cause
of American independence, which will be given in the next chapter.

The reply which Congress made to the letter above quoted, was to appoint
Arthur Lee to examine the accounts.

“The work was soon done,” says Loménie, “_d’un tour de main_. Arthur Lee
pretended to discover that instead of 3,600,000 livres owing
Beaumarchais, he not only had nothing to reclaim but on the other hand
owed 1,800,000 francs to the United States!” The absurdity of this
account could not fail to appear to Congress, and after four years more
of protestations, in 1793 it confided a new examination of the debt to
“that most distinguished American Statesman, Alexander Hamilton,” who
established the sum owing Beaumarchais as 2,280,000 francs, but at the
same time he proposed to suspend payment until the question of the lost
million was settled.

In the meantime the Revolution was advancing upon France with awful
strides. Already the royalistic government had fallen, that government
whose greatest glory was its noble service to the cause of American
independence.

When in 1794 Gouverneur Morris applied to Buchot, then minister of
Foreign affairs for the new French government, there was no one left who
knew or cared for the details that had prevented Vergennes from
producing that famous receipt. At the demand of Congress, therefore, it
was given to Morris.

Armed now with what it chose to consider as proof that Beaumarchais
wilfully had appropriated to himself a million livres intended by the
French Government for it, Congress refused all settlement.

They not only repudiated the payment of the 2,600,000 livres surplus of
the debt honorably acknowledged by Deane, who alone knew the immense
advances that had been made by Beaumarchais to cover the expenses of the
commissioner as well as of the officers whom he had commissioned, but
that august body considered that it might even dispense with paying the
1,800,000 livres surplus over and above the million, out of the sum
accorded by Alexander Hamilton in which he ignored those advances,
together with a part of the commission and interest freely granted by
Congress in the contract already quoted in this volume, and arranged by
the agent of Beaumarchais, Theveneau de Francy, in 1778.

Congress refused all this, arguing that, as M. de Loménie says: “Since
the interest of the million given in 1776 will absorb the difference,
therefore we owe nothing, and will pay nothing.”

The interest on the surplus, as it would have much more than absorbed
the million in question, they, of course, conveniently ignored.

This turn in his affairs with Congress was a crushing blow to
Beaumarchais, but it did not prevent him, during the entire remainder of
his life, pleading with the representatives of the American people to
pay their debt to him.

But at the moment when Congress held triumphantly aloft the receipt for
the 1,000,000 livres, and flaunted it in his face, Beaumarchais was in
no position to defend himself, for the Revolution which had overwhelmed
France had so shattered and ruined his fortune that he was obliged to
take refuge in a garret in Hamburg. Here, devoured by anguish,—unable to
obtain news from home, knowing only that his goods had been confiscated,
that his wife, his daughter, and his sisters had been thrown into
prison, his thoughts turned to the people for whom he had performed such
herculean labors and to them he addressed one last appeal. This was in
April, 1795.

“Congress,” says Loménie, “remained deaf to all his reclamations; not
only it allowed him to die without liquidating the debt, but during the
thirty-six years following his death, all the governments which
succeeded one another in France, and all the ambassadors of those
governments, vainly supported the demand of the heirs of Beaumarchais.”

During the years which follow his death, from 1799 to 1835, “The claims
of the heirs of Beaumarchais” occupy congress after congress of the
United States. In the progress of the suit all the French governments,
from the Empire under Napoleon down to the reign of the “bourgeois
King,” Louis Phillippe, always take the stand of Vergennes. The
following letter from the Duc de Richelieu, dated the 20th of May, 1816,
may be said to express the attitude of the French Government in the
whole matter. He wrote:

   “The notes successively presented by the ministers of France are
   so particular and positive, that they seem to remove all doubt on
   the facts of the subject in dispute, and consequently all
   hesitation as to the decision to be given. It was in fact stated
   that the French Government had no concern in the commercial
   transactions of M. de Beaumarchais with the United States.

   “By this declaration it was not only intended to convey the idea
   that the government was in no ways interested in the operations
   or in his chances of loss or gain, but a positive assurance was
   also given that it was wholly unconnected with them; whence it
   results that in relation to them France is to be considered
   neither as a lender, a surety nor as an intermediate agent. The
   whole of these transactions were spontaneous on the part of M. de
   Beaumarchais and the right and agency derived from them appertain
   exclusively to him....

   “The million delivered on the 10th of June immediately reached
   its intended destination and a simple authorization of the King,
   but a few months subsequent to the payment of the sum, was the
   only document which finally placed the expenditure in the regular
   train of fiscal settlement.

   “I am therefore warranted, Sir, after a fresh examination of the
   facts, in presenting the declaration of the above as stated, and
   in considering it a matter of certainty that the million paid on
   the 10th of June was not applied to the purchase of shipments
   made to the United States at that period by M. de
   Beaumarchais....

   “There is no member of the Government who can be ignorant of the
   services rendered by the head of that family to your cause and
   the influence produced on its early successes by his ardent zeal,
   extensive connections and liberal employment of his whole
   fortune.

   “Be pleased, Sir, to receive, etc., etc.

       Signed                                         “Richelieu.”

This claim, so repeatedly stated before Congress, was taken up and
examined by a succession of committees which seem each to have adopted
the views of the French Government. To the honor of the United States
let it be stated that such men as John Jay and Thomas Jefferson, had
from the first recognized the debt due to Beaumarchais and had urged the
payment of the debt. Later it was James Madison, Cæsar Rodney, William
Pinkney and others, who similarly urged Congress to appropriate the
money to liquidate the claim.

To close this long debate we have selected a few paragraphs taken here
and there from reports of committees, terminating with an extract from a
speech delivered by Mr. Tucker of Virginia, in order to demonstrate
clearly that the enlightened opinion of the most representative
Americans always has stood for the recognition of this claim.... “Only
two points,” the report says, “are to be decided: Did Mr. Beaumarchais
receive from the French Government 1,000,000 livres in behalf of or on
account of the United States? If so, has he, or his representative at
any time accounted with the United States for their expenditure?... On
the face of the instrument itself it appears that Beaumarchais was to
account to Vergennes and not to the United States, for the expenditure
of the money.... This contradicts the idea that he was accountable to us
for its application.... The engagement of Beaumarchais was positive,
express and unqualified to account to Vergennes and to him only for the
money received. The United States are no parties to the instrument;
there is no stipulation to render them any account of the
expenditure.... It is not easy to conceive on what principle he ought
twice to account for the same money.... The French government have
uniformly declared that they furnished no supply of arms or military
stores. Vergennes is full and explicit; he states that all the articles
furnished by Beaumarchais are on his private account, who had settled
with the artillery department for them by giving orders or bills for
their value. This expressly excludes the idea that the million livres in
question were intended to be applied to the payment in advance of the
account of Beaumarchais.... This construction was acquiesced in by our
government in the contract of 1783, when we knew neither the date nor
the person to whom the money was paid....

“ ... The United States allege that the French Government paid this debt
for them. The Government through their ministers declare officially that
they did not. There seems therefore no room for dispute. Considering
that the sum of which the million livres in question made a part, was a
gratuitous grant from the French Government to the United States, and
considering that the declaration of that Government clearly states that
that part of the grant was put into the hands of M. de Beaumarchais as
its agent, not as the agent of the United States, and that it was duly
accounted for by him, to the French Government; considering also the
concurring opinion of two attorneys-general of the United States that
the said debt was not legally sustainable in behalf of the United
States; I recommend the case to the favorable attention of the
legislature whose authority alone can finally decide on it. Signed

                                          “James Madison,
                                          “C. A. Rodney,
                                          “Wm. Pinkney.
                                               “January 31, 1817.”

From the speech of Mr. Tucker of Virginia, 1824:

“Mr. Chairman: It is well known to most of the assembly that in the
first years of the Revolution, M. de Beaumarchais furnished military
supplies and clothing to the amount of several million livres....

“The merits of this claim have hitherto hinged upon the fact whether the
million in question was received by Beaumarchais for the purpose of
supplies or not; ...

“In regard to this there is the solemn declaration of M. de Vergennes
that the king had furnished nothing. Again there can be no doubt that M.
de Beaumarchais must have been held accountable to his government for
the million, for whatever purpose it was put into his hands.... If it
was intended for such services as those for which secret service money
is employed, it is said, and it seems not improbable, that the vouchers
in such cases are destroyed.... But there could be no reason to destroy
them if they related merely to the purchase of supplies....

“On weighing all the considerations there is some preponderance of
testimony that M. de Beaumarchais received the million in dispute for
the purpose of supplies, and if France had been passive on this occasion
or if we had paid any valuable consideration to her for this million I
should think that we were justified in charging M. de Beaumarchais with
that amount. But when it is recollected that we received these supplies
directly from him, having arranged the settlement of the account on our
own terms; that the million that we claim as a credit was paid not by
us, but by France, and that, as an act of bounty; and when France
insists that it was for another purpose; ... it seems to me that we
cannot, consistently with our honor or self respect, pay off an
undisputed debt with a doubtful or disputed gift....

“As an individual, I could never seek to give the bounty of a benefactor
a direction which he objected to, for the purpose of making a discount
from the acknowledged debt of a third person.

“Sirs:—in this matter France is right or she is wrong.... Then the error
consists in claiming our gratitude for 9,000,000 livres instead of
8,000,000 ... which can in no way affect the claim of M. de
Beaumarchais.... The whole present difficulty comes from the mistake of
Dr. Franklin in the treaty of 1783....

“Assuredly if our agent had signed a treaty under a mistake as he
himself states, that mistake should be rectified with the French
Government which should give us a satisfactory explanation or hold us
bound in gratitude for only 8,000,000 livres, neither of which can
affect the claims of M. de Beaumarchais....

“Mr. Chairman: We ought to be consistent with ourselves with regard to
the declaration of the French Government. When M. de Vergennes declared
to our commissioners in September 1778, that the military supplies were
furnished by M. de Beaumarchais, we acquiesced in that assurance and
required no further proof....

“On every ground then, Mr. Chairman, I am free to say, I would vote at
once for the appropriation to the whole amount of this claim ... and I
hope the committee will adopt the resolution for that purpose offered by
the Committee.”

But the government of the United States still refused to listen to
reason. However, in 1835, under pressure of necessity, the United States
having a claim against France which it wished to bring forward, offered
the heirs of Beaumarchais the choice of taking 800,000 francs and
considering the affair closed, or nothing. The heirs chose the former
and so at last ended the long drawn out debate regarding “the lost
million.”



CHAPTER XXIII


“_It was to take from the Ministers all idea of my ambition, to conjure
the storm, that I began again to amuse myself with frivolous theatrical
plays, while guarding a profound silence upon my political actions._”

_Petition to MM. the Representatives of the Commune of Paris by P. A.
Caron de Beaumarchais._


   The _Mariage de Figaro_—Its Composition—Difficulties Encountered
     in Getting it Produced—It is Played at Grennevilliers—The First
     Representation—Its Success—_Institut des mères
     nourrices_—Beaumarchais at Saint Lazare.


Several years before Beaumarchais had written in answer to the
question,—“What gives you so gay a philosophy?”

“The habit of misfortune, I hasten to laugh at everything so as not to
be obliged to weep.”

So now in 1778 after seeing Deane recalled, his own service ignored, and
jealousies aroused even among the ministers themselves he turned from
all this bitterness, to develop in his own inimitable way, the gay
scenes of his _Mariage de Figaro_.

“In this piece,” says Gudin, “the combinations were so new, the
situations so varied that one would be tempted to believe that such a
work would have absorbed all the faculties of the mind of its author
during many years, but for him it was only a relaxation from the many
and diverse affairs in which he was engaged.”

M. de Maurepas said to him one day, “And how, occupied as you are, have
you been able to write it?”

“I, M. le Comte! I composed it the day when the ministers of the King
had sufficient leisure to go together to the Redoute.”

“Are there many repartees equal to that in your comedy? If so, I answer
for its success,” retorted Maurepas; for just the day before all the
ministers had gone in a body to spend several hours at one of the new
and fashionable pleasure gardens of Paris known as the Redoute.

But having written his play was very far from having it produced, for
the daring boldness of the author since the marvelous success of his
first comedy was known not to have diminished. The authorities rightly
suspected that the new play would contain even more pointed criticisms
upon the existing social order than had the _Barbier_. To be produced in
public it must first pass the censors and have the approbation of the
king.

La Harpe has said of this play, “It took much wit to write it—but not so
much as to get it played.”

Letters given by Loménie show that already in October, 1781, the actors
of the Théâtre-Français had seen the piece and were discussing with
Beaumarchais the distribution of the parts. The author had appealed to
the lieutenant of police to name a censor and asked as a special favor
that the play should not leave his office. Six weeks later Beaumarchais
learned that the king had read his play and that it had been condemned.

Madame Campan in her Memoires speaks of the incident.

Marie Antoinette who had always liked and protected Beaumarchais said to
the King,

“Will the piece not be played?”

“Certainly not,” answered the King, “it is detestable. Why, the Bastille
would have to be pulled down if that were allowed!”

The situation against which the versatile author had to contend was the
positive prohibition by the supreme head of authority—the King himself,
but who was seconded, however, by very few of those personages who were
nearest to him. In fact this very prohibition excited the curiosity of
the court to such an extent that everyone from the loftiest personages
down, and notably the Duke d’Artois, brother of Louis XVI, was demanding
the favor of hearing Beaumarchais read his play.

“Every day,” explained Madame de Campan, “one hears on every side, ‘I
have heard,’ or ‘I shall hear the piece of Beaumarchais.’”

Flattered as the author must have been by the enthusiasm of the
courtiers, he was far too clever to lose his head or grant lightly the
privilege of a reading.

“Even the most considerable personages of the realm,” says Loménie,
“obtained the privilege on condition that they asked at least twice. The
Princess Lamballe, for instance, personal friend of the queen, had a
violent desire to have Beaumarchais read the _Mariage de Figaro_ in her
salon. She sent an ambassador to him, one of the greatest nobles of the
court, the oldest son of the Maréchal de Richelieu, the Duc de
Fronsac—an ardent patron of the _Mariage_.—Beaumarchais refused to see
him. The duc wrote next day:

   “You closed your door against me yesterday which was not well.
   However, I do not hold against you enough malice to prevent me
   from speaking of the negotiation with which I am charged by Mme.
   the Princess of Lamballe—and I propose you come next Wednesday
   to Versailles to dine with me, after which we will go to her.
   Your very humble servant, etc.

                                              “Le duc de Fronsac.”

Beaumarchais evidently refused a second time for again the Duke wrote
another letter, more urgent, to which the author finally yielded.

The grand Duke (afterward Paul I) and Duchess of Russia, while visiting
Versailles in the spring of 1782, also became ardent supporters of the
piece, after Beaumarchais had accorded them the privilege of a reading.

Strong now with the support of so many notables, he took occasion to
write a vigorous letter to M. the _Garde des Sceaux_, to which august
personage he began by apologizing for bothering him with such a
“frivolous subject” but ended by a very ardent plea that his play be
permitted to appear before the public.

“In June of 1783,” says Loménie, “Beaumarchais, who, it must not be
forgotten, conducted twenty other operations at the same time, seemed on
the point of succeeding.... By the influence of some one unknown, the
comedians received an order to learn the piece so that it might be
played before the court of Versailles. Later it was decided that it
should be performed in Paris itself at the _hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs_.”

Everything was ready, even the tickets were out, when suddenly an
express order of the king arrived, forbidding the performance. “This
prohibition of the king,” says Madame de Campan, “seemed like an attack
upon the liberty of the public. The disappointed hopes of the people
excited discontent to such an extent that the words, ‘_oppression_,’
‘_tyranny_’ were never pronounced in the days before the fall of the
throne, with so much passion and vehemence.”

Beaumarchais could well afford, as he writes, “to put his piece back in
its portfolio, waiting until some event should draw it out again,” for
the prohibition of the king had acted only as the most serviceable
advertisement. Therefore he had not long to wait.

Being in England on business the latter part of the summer, he received
a letter from the Duc de Fronsac, from which the following is an
extract:

   “Paris, the 4th of September, 1783.

   “I hope, Monsieur, that you will not object that I shall write to
   obtain your consent to have the _Mariage de Figaro_ played at
   Grennevilliers.... You know that I have for several years turned
   over my estate of Grennevilliers to M. de Vaudreuil. M. le Comte
   d’Artois comes there to hunt the 18th and Madame the Duchess de
   Polignac with her society comes to supper. Vaudreuil has asked me
   to arrange a spectacle, for there is a good enough hall. I told
   him that there was nothing more charming than the _Mariage de
   Figaro_, but that we must have the consent of the king. _We have
   secured that and_ I went running to find you and was astonished
   and distressed to find that you were far away in the north.

   “Will you not give your consent that the piece be played? I
   promise you that I will do my utmost to have it well given. M. le
   Comte d’Artois and his whole society are waiting with the
   greatest eagerness to see it, and certainly it will be a great
   step in advance towards having it given at Fontainebleau and
   Paris.... I, in particular, have the greatest desire and I beg
   you to reply quickly, quickly. Let it be favorable, I beg you,
   and never doubt my gratitude and the esteem and friendship with
   which I shall always be, Monsieur, yours, etc.

                                              “Le duc de Fronsac.”

“While the duc de Fronsac,” says Loménie, “sent after Beaumarchais, the
comte de Vaudreuil who was arranging the festival in honor of the comte
d’Artois and Madame de Polignac, waited with impatience for the consent
of Beaumarchais. We have under our eyes a letter of the comte written to
the duc de Fronsac which was found among the papers of Beaumarchais,
apparently because the latter fearing some sudden change of feeling in
the King, had requested that the duc give him the entire correspondence,
in order that he might be in a position to prove that he had acted only
at the urgent solicitations of the courtiers.

“This circumstance enables us to observe closely what was passing in
those frivolous heads that were soon to be stricken off, and to realize
with what blind impatience those thoughtless patricians aspired to be
pointed out by Figaro for the contempt of the masses.”

In this letter of the count, after running over a half dozen plays that
do not satisfy him, he says:

   “Fearing the permission of M. de Beaumarchais would not reach us
   in time we will postpone the spectacle for three or four days so
   it will not be given until the 21st or the 22nd. Will you please
   see that the comedians hold themselves ready for that date? But
   _hors du ‘Mariage de Figaro,’ point de salut_ (our only salvation
   is in the _Mariage de Figaro_). Thank you a thousand times, my
   dear Fronsac, for all your trouble. I know that it is for these
   ladies and M. the comte d’Artois, who join in my gratitude.
   Receive the renewed expression of my deep regard which is yours
   for life;

                                          “Le comte de Vaudreuil.”

Again to quote Loménie:

“Beaumarchais, then in England, learned that nothing was now lacking but
his own consent to play the piece prohibited by the king several months
before. He returned immediately to Paris and it was he now who was the
one to make the conditions. He was not satisfied simply to amuse the
court, but wished rather to reach the public and to make them laugh at
the expense of the court, which was a very different matter. If,
however, the one would lead to the other, Beaumarchais would be charmed
to gratify MM. de Vaudreuil and de Fronsac, but before consenting to the
representation taking place at Grennevilliers, he required that the
favor be accorded him of a new censure. Singular request!

“‘But,’ they said to him, ‘your play has already been censored,
approved, and we have the permission of the king.’

“‘No matter, it must be censored again.’

“To M. de Breteuil he wrote, ‘they found me a little difficult in my
turn and they said it was only because I was so sought after; but since
I desired _absolutely_ to _fix public opinion_ by a new examination of
the piece, I insisted, and so they have accorded me the severe
historian, Gaillard of the French Academy.’

“This,” continues Loménie, “was well thought out. Just before a court
festival, where all were eagerly awaiting the representation, what
censor, no matter how arbitrary, would dare interfere by spoiling their
joy and provoking the anger of the powerful lords who ordered the
festival? And so, as was to be expected, the report of the censure was
‘completely favorable.’”

But Beaumarchais was not yet satisfied. “The play approved once more,”
he wrote in his memoirs to M. de Breteuil, “I carried my precaution so
far that I required before I would consent to its being played at the
festival, the express promise of the magistracy that the
Comédie Française might consider it as belonging to their theater and I
dare certify that that assurance was given by M. Lenoir, who certainly
believed everything complete as did I myself.”

“To appreciate the diplomatic value,” continues Loménie, “of this
passage, and the art with which Beaumarchais in the suppleness of his
tenacity knew how to bind over the people who inconvenienced him, and
that he could not openly attack, it is well to recall that at this
moment he was struggling against an express prohibition of the
representation of his play by the king, a prohibition that his majesty
consented to lift only for one day, in a particular house and that only
to gratify his brother the Comte d’Artois and M. de Vaudreuil.”

Beaumarchais, on his side, was sincere in not wishing to let it be
played at Grennevilliers except on condition that he be formally
promised that sooner or later it would be given to the public; but since
he did not dare to push the matter so far, he saw the way to take one
step in advance, by inventing the beautiful paraphrase that had just
been read, which became a sort of vague engagement contracted with him
and upon which he would depend very soon to push matters still further.

On these conditions he finally accorded the permission asked, and M. de
Vaudreuil thanked him in a letter which proves as far as he was
concerned, that he accepted the engagement in the sense understood by
Beaumarchais. He wrote:

[Illustration: JOHN JAY]

“The comte de Vaudreuil has the honor to thank M. de Beaumarchais for
the kindness which he has shown in allowing his piece to be played at
Grennevilliers. The comte de Vaudreuil has seized with alacrity this
opportunity of giving to the public a chef d’œuvre which it awaits with
impatience. The presence of Monseigneur the comte d’Artois and the real
merit of this charming piece will in the end destroy all the obstacles
which have retarded its representation. The comte de Vaudreuil hopes
very soon to be able to thank M. de Beaumarchais personally.

   “This Monday, Sept. 15th, 1783.”

“The success of this representation at Grennevilliers was such,” to
continue the account of Loménie, “that a complete change operated in
Beaumarchais’s attitude toward the piece. Resigned hitherto under the
royal prohibition, working slowly and carefully to gain ground, he now
became impatient, pressing and almost imperious. It is clear to anyone
who will reflect, that on the day when Louis XVI permitted at the
insistence of the Queen, the Comte d’Artois and M. de Vaudreuil to the
representation at Grennevillier, he placed himself where he would be
unable long to resist public curiosity, carried now to the heights by
that very representation, of which everyone spoke, and by the address of
Beaumarchais.” It was not, however, until March, 1784, that the desired
permission was given.

“The picture of that representation of _Le Mariage de Figaro_,” says
Loménie, “is in all the chronicles of the times, it is the best
remembered scene of the eighteenth century. All Paris from earliest
morning, pressed the doors of the Théâtre-Français; the greatest ladies
dining in the boxes of the actresses so as to be sure of their
places—the guards dispersed, the doors broken down, the iron railings
giving way before the crowd of assailants. When the curtain rose upon
the scene, the finest reunion of talent which the Théâtre-Français had
ever possessed was there with but one thought, to bring out to the best
advantage a comedy, flashing with _esprit_, carrying one away in its
movement and audacity, which if it shocks some of the boxes, enchants,
stirs, enflames and electrifies the parterre.”

And what is this play that roused such wild enthusiasm a century and
more ago, and which to-day, although its political significance has long
vanished, would still give its author, had he done nothing but create
its characters, a right to a place among the immortals?

“The _Mariage de Figaro_,” to quote his own words, “was the most trivial
of intrigues:

“A great Spanish nobleman, in love with a young girl whom he wishes to
seduce, and the efforts of that same girl and of him to whom she is
engaged, and of the wife of the nobleman united to outwit his
designs—and he an absolute master whose rank, fortune and prodigality
render all powerful its accomplishment—that and nothing more.”

The characters are those in the main of the _Barbier_: the Comte
Almaviva, the Comtesse Rosine, and the valet Figaro, are old friends.
But there are new ones, the page Cherubim, and Suzanne, lady’s maid to
the Comtesse—“Always laughing, tender, full of gaiety, of _esprit_, of
love and delicious!—but good.”

“Like the _Barbier_,” says Lintilhac, “it is here a question of
marriage, but it is the valet this time who is to marry and the
obstacles which retard this desired _dénouement_ arise, not from the
jealousy of a guardian, or the resistance of a father but from the
covetousness of a young libertine master.... It is the master who is
outwitted, the valet and his fiancée who triumph, and in this
_dénouement_ lies the whole secret of the wild enthusiasm with which the
piece was greeted. Right here lies the Revolution.”

But the master is as truly painted in the play as the other characters.
“The Comte Almaviva,” says Imbert de Saint Amand, “is the old régime,
Figaro is the new society. Almaviva is corrupt, but he is always _comme
il faut_. Even in his anger he remains the man of good society; no doubt
his faults are great; he is a libertine from ennui, jealous from
vanity, but he is not odious, not ridiculous.”

But to return to Lintilhac:

   “We may see that Figaro, by the aid of two clever women and his
   own _esprit_ has the opportunity to interest the public and to
   bring all to a happy ending.

   “‘Be on your guard that day, M. Figaro! First put the clocks in
   advance so as to be a little surer of marrying. Get rid of
   Marceline who wants to marry you herself—take all the money and
   the presents, let the count have his way, in little things; drub
   Basil roundly, ... (Act I, Scene II). And let us finish the
   programme which the fat doctor interrupts,—giving yourself full
   rein, invective politics, graft and those who live by it;
   ridicule censorship, and the law, as well as those who abuse
   both—banter privileges and the privileged and all that attaches
   itself to either, in a word—open the way for the men of genius
   who are preparing there below in the obscure crowd, and who wish
   to emerge.

   “But the time to laugh, _la folle journée_ commences. _Quel
   imbroglio!_ Twenty times everything seems finished, and suddenly,
   an unexpected incident, but always arising out of the situation,
   throws forward in rapid movement that brilliant group of
   personages. They seek, they evade one another, group themselves
   in tableaux turn by turn, animated and gracious, laughing or
   grotesque....

   “And the new song to the old music! And the scene which a moment
   ago framed these charming groups, suddenly fills with the noise
   of the crowd and the whole village which sings. _Quel crescendo_
   of gaiety!...

   “Take the most ingenious comedy of Lope de Vega, or Calderon, add
   the gaiety of Regnard, the comique of George Dandin, the amusing
   of Vadé, and one will scarcely have in imagination the
   equivalent of the scene on the night which terminates the
   _Mariage de Figaro_.”

   And his faithful friend Gudin says of it: “In this piece the
   parterre applauded not only scenes founded upon true
   _comique_—that of situations, new characters, like Cherubim and
   Bridoison—but also the courageous man who dared undertake to
   combat by ridicule the libertinage of the great lords, the
   ignorance of magistrates, the venality of officers and the
   unbecoming way of pleading of lawyers.

   “Beaumarchais might perhaps consider himself more authorized in
   this than anyone else since he had been calumniated so
   outrageously by great lords, and injured by the insolent
   pleadings of lawyers, and _blâmé_ by bad judges.... Let us dare
   to say what is true, that since Molière no author had better
   understood the human heart, or better painted the manners of his
   time.”

And his latest critic, Lintilhac, a hundred years after Gudin,
corroborates his judgment. “By the creation of Figaro, Beaumarchais is
the first comic French author after Molière, the incomparable painter of
character.”

Of the famous monologue of the piece, Gudin says, “I remember that when
the author composed it in a moment of enthusiasm, he was alarmed himself
at its extent. We examined it together; I regarded it with severe
attention. Everything seemed to me in its place; not a word could be
omitted without regretting it. Every phrase had a moral or a useful
object proper to cause the spectator to reflect either on human nature
or on the abuses of society.”

Of its moral significance Beaumarchais has commented in his preface to
the play: “An author has but one duty; to correct men in making them see
themselves as they are, whether he moralizes in laughing or weeps in
moralizing.”

And let us now close this brief summary of the famous play by the
description given by Imbert de Saint-Amand in “_La fin de l’ancien
Régime_.”

“Beaumarchais, that marvelous wit, was scarcely aware perhaps of the
weight of his attacks and of the gravity of the piece. He did not desire
the fall of the throne any more than the overturning of the altar, at
heart he was monarchic.... The first representation was given April 27,
1784, by the Comédie Française.... The success went to the stars.
Beaumarchais himself could not help crying out, ‘There is something more
astounding than my piece, it is its success.’ ... Actors and actresses
surpassed themselves. Every word told. Each bit of satire was welcomed
by acclamations and bravos without end. The public recognized itself in
the portrait of Figaro. ‘Never angry, always gay, giving over the
present to joy and not worrying about the future any more than the
past,—lively, generous, _generous_!’

“‘Like a robber,’ says Bartolo.

“‘Like a lord,’ replies Marceline.

“What joy for all that assembly, his definition of a courtier:

“Figaro—‘I was born to be a courtier.’

“Suzanne—‘They say it is a very difficult business.’

“Figaro—‘Receive, take, ask, that is the secret in three words.’

“What joyous laughter at the reflection, very true, by the way:

“Le Comte—‘The domestics here take longer to dress than their masters.’

“Figaro—‘That is because they have no valets to help them.’

“What an excellent remark upon the chances for functionaries:

“Le Comte—‘With character and intelligence you may one day be promoted
in office.’

“Figaro—‘Intelligence will advance me? Monsieur is making sport of
mine—to be mediocre and cringing, one can arrive at anything.’

“And after this very subtle observation, what a picture of diplomacy:

“‘Pretend to be ignorant of what everyone knows, and to know what others
do not know, seem to understand what nobody comprehends, not to hear
what all hear, and most of all appear able to do the impossible. Seem
profound when one is only empty; spread spies, pension traitors, loosen
seals, and intercept letters; magnify the poverty of the methods by the
importance of the object,—that’s politics, or I’m a dead man.’

“The diplomats who were in the audience were transported with pleasure
in hearing their business so exactly judged.

“The great ladies went into ecstacies at the remark of Suzanne to the
countess: ‘I have noticed how a knowledge of the world gives an ease to
ladies well brought up, so they can lie without showing it.’

“They applauded with enthusiasm that democratic observation, but
profoundly true of this same Suzanne: ‘Do you think women of my position
have hysterics? That is a malady which is only to be found in the
boudoir.’

“The great lords, always surrounded with flatterers and parasites,
applauded with transport that phrase of Figaro to Basil: ‘Are you a
prince that you must be servilely flattered? Suffer the truth, wretch,
since you cannot pay a liar.’

“But the moment when the enthusiasm became delirium, frenzy—the moment
when the dukes and peers, the ministers, the _cordons rouges_, the
_cordons bleus_—were transported to the seventh heaven of acclaim, was
when the daring _Barbier_ transformed himself into a tribune and said
to all of them in the monologue under the chestnut tree:

“‘Because you are a great lord you believe yourself a great genius.
Rank, fortune, position, all that make you so proud! What have you done
to deserve so many gifts? You have taken the trouble to be born, nothing
else!’

“The functionaries charged with the censure were particularly enchanted
with this phrase of the same monologue: ‘On condition that I do not
speak in my writings, either of authority, or religion, or politics, or
morals, or of people in position, or bodies in favor, or anyone who
holds to anything, I am allowed to write, to print everything freely
under the inspection of two or three censors.’

“The ministers charged to fill public functions found the following
phrase very just: ‘They thought of me for a position, but by ill luck I
was suited to it; they needed a calculator, it was a dancer who received
it.’”

“The _Mariage de Figaro_” says Loménie, “was presented sixty-eight times
consecutively, something unheard of in that day. The receipts for the
first presentation amounted to 6,511 livres, that of the sixty-eighth
was 5,483. During eight months, from the 27th of April, 1784, to the
10th of January, 1785, the piece had brought to the Comédie Française
(not counting the fiftieth presentation which at Beaumarchais’s request
had been given for the benefit of the poor) a gross sum of 347,197
livres, which left when all expenses were deducted, a net profit to the
Comedians of 293,755 livres, except the part of the author which was
valued at 41,499 livres....

“This sum the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_, as if to sanctify the
piece, consecrated to works of charity.

“‘I propose,’ he wrote in the _Journal de Paris_, the 12th of August,
1784, ‘_un institut de bienfaisance_, to which any woman recognized as
needy and inscribed in her parish, can come, her infant in her arms and
with her certificate from the parish priest, say to us, “I am a mother
and a wet nurse, I gain twenty sous a day, my infant makes me lose
twelve.” Let us give her nine livres a month in charity.... So if the
comedians have gained two hundred thousand francs from my Figaro, my
nursing mothers will have twenty-eight thousand which with the thirty
thousand of my friends, will produce a whole regiment of _marmots_
stuffed with maternal milk.’”

“This institute,” continues Loménie, “of _les pauvres mères nourrices_,
encountered obstacles at Paris which prevented its establishment in that
city; but since the idea was good it did not remain fruitless. The
Archbishop of Lyon, M. de Montazet, adopted it. He accepted the help and
money of Beaumarchais, and the _Institut de bienfaisance maternelle_, if
I am not mistaken still in existence in Lyon, was the outcome of the
_Mariage de Figaro_. Beaumarchais was one of its most constant
protectors and in 1790 he sent six thousand francs to it and received in
return the following letter signed by three of the most respectable and
important inhabitants of Lyon:

                                  “‘Lyon, the 11th of April, 1790.

   “‘Monsieur:

   “‘To speak to you of the success of _l’Institut de bienfaisance
   maternelle_, is to entertain you in regard to your own work. The
   idea of it is yours, therefore the plan of the work belongs to
   you. You have aided it with your generous gifts and more than two
   hundred children saved to the country, already owe their lives to
   you. We consider ourselves happy to have contributed to it and
   our gratitude will always equal the respectful sentiments with
   which we are Monsieur, etc., _Les administrateurs de l’Institut
   de bienfaisance maternelle_.

                           “‘Palerne de Sacy, Chapp et Tabareau.’”

It was jealousy, Gudin tells us, that prevented the establishment of the
institute at Paris. A storm of protest arose from his enemies on every
hand.

“It is not enough,” they wrote, “to have gained at the bar the crown of
Cicero and Parru; to have received at the theater, from the hands of
Thalie, the laurels of Molière, he must needs add to the just applause
with which he is greeted, the cries of joy and benediction of the
unfortunate!... From this feeble stream of money will flow rivers of
milk and crowds of vigorous infants.” An engraving was circulated
showing Figaro helping mothers and opening the prison doors of poor
debtors....

Gudin says: “The design made known, redoubled the solicitation of the
unfortunates addressed to him as well as the insults which the envious
poured upon him. He scarcely could open a letter which did not contain
either a demand for charity if it was signed, or a series of invectives
if it were anonymous.”

One of these letters contained a curious request, not for money, as was
usually the case, but asking that the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_,
send the applicant a ticket to his play. “Misfortune,” he wrote, “has
driven me to despair, but before ending my life I desire once more to
indulge in unrestrained laughter.”

With characteristic generosity, Beaumarchais sent at once a message, to
inquire into the cause of the young man’s misfortune and not only gave
him the desired ticket but restored hope to his distressed mind, found a
position for him and warmed him back to a desire for life.

“But thus,” Gudin tells us, “while with his wife, his daughter, his
sisters, and a few friends, he was receiving the applause of the people
and the benedictions of the fathers of families—a frightful outrage and
one without motive was inflicted upon him by authority.

“I was supping with him; we were at the table when the commissioner
Chenu was announced and asked to speak privately with Beaumarchais. They
passed into an adjoining room.

“We knew that the commissioner was his friend, still the conference made
us uneasy. At length they came out together. Beaumarchais embraced us,
as he said he would be obliged to go out and perhaps to pass the night
away from home. He begged us not to be uneasy and that the next day we
should be informed as to the cause of his going.

“These words, far from calming, troubled us. We could not doubt that he
had been arrested, but why? Where would they take him? Perhaps to the
Bastille?...

“Not to the Bastille, nor to Vincennes, but to St. Lazare, a prison
house of correction for delinquent youths, he, a man of mature age, of
the constancy, of the fortune of M. de Beaumarchais, treated as a
depraved adolescent! It was a cowardly outrage.

“His enemies were charmed to see him thus humiliated. The consternation
was general. Lafayette, the Prince de Nassau-Siegen, and other noblemen
appealed instantly in his favor. At the end of five days he was
liberated....

“I went with his wife and daughter and the Commissioner Chenu to bring
him the news of his release. His first reaction was to refuse liberty.

“‘I have done nothing to merit having lost it,’ he said, ‘I shall not go
from here until judged and justified....’

“If he had not been husband and father, his obstinacy would no doubt
have carried him to the point of demanding justice of the king against
the king himself ... but he could not permit himself to pierce the
hearts of his wife and daughter by condemning them to eternal tears in
the vain hope of tearing from power the avowal of an injustice....

“Princes, Marshals of France, persons of every rank had inscribed their
names at his door during his detention and came to felicitate him on his
return....”

And what was the cause that had operated to bring about this sudden
outburst of power directed against the author of the _Mariage de
Figaro_?

It was this. In a dispute carried on with vigor in the pages of _le
Journal de Paris_, between Beaumarchais and certain anonymous attacks
directed against him, the former had made use of the expression, “After
having been forced to conquer _lions_ and _tigers_ to have my comedy
played....”

“_Lions_ and _tigers_!” Evidently the daring man meant the King and
Queen of France! The news was brought at once to the royal presence.
Louis XVI, already annoyed beyond measure at the success of the play, to
the performance of which he had been forced to consent in spite of
himself, only needed some pretext to vent his displeasure, “so without
rising from the card table at which he was seated,” says Loménie, “he
wrote, if we may credit the authority of the author of _Souvenirs d’un
Sexagénaire_, M. Arnault, ... upon the back of a seven of spades, in
pencil, the order for the immediate arrest of Beaumarchais and joining
insult to rigor, something which no sovereign is permitted to use, he
ordered him conducted, not to an ordinary prison, but one ridiculous and
shameful for a man of his years, to Saint-Lazare, where depraved
adolescents were detained.

“To treat as a young good-for-nothing, a man of his age and celebrity, a
man to whom confidential missions were entrusted, who carried the
secrets of state, who was charged with the most important operations,
and whose talents were a powerful attraction to the public and to the
aristocracy, was not only a gross injustice, it was a most serious
fault, because it became manifest to everyone how pernicious the
influence of uncontrolled power might become even in the hands of the
best prince. This arbitrary act is the only one of its kind that can be
held as a reproach to Louis XVI....

“The next day, when the motive was demanded for that incarceration, the
government said nothing, as it had nothing to say, for it would have
been difficult to make anyone believe that Beaumarchais intended to
compare Louis XVI to a _tiger_. The public became uneasy and began to
murmur, and the day after to murmur loudly.”

“Every one,” says Arnault, “felt himself menaced, not only in his
liberty but in his reputation.” The fourth day there was a general
movement of indignation.... The fifth day Beaumarchais was turned out of
prison almost in spite of himself ... and Loménie continues:

“A few days’ reflection had made the king realize that he could not
decently admit the intention given to the author, and coming back to the
sentiments of justice and goodness so natural to him, he almost begged
Beaumarchais to come out of prison, and set about in every way to make
up to him for the wrong done him. Grimm affirms that nearly all the
ministers were present at the first performance of the play after his
release, which was made the most brilliant possible, when they had the
slight unpleasantness of hearing this passage of the famous monologue
applauded with fervent energy: ‘Not being able to debase the spirit,
they take revenge in abuse.’”

[Illustration: D’ESTAIGN.]

Louis XVI, very soon after this, hastened to make amends in the noblest
manner and the one most worthy of a sovereign who felt that he had done
wrong. “_Le Barbier de Séville_,” says Grimm, “was given at the little
theater of the Trianon, and the very distinguished favor was accorded
the author to be present at the performance.”

In the chapter on the _Barbier_ we have spoken already of this striking
scene, where the queen herself, the Comte d’Artois, M. de Vaudreuil,
etc., were the actors. There is one more line to this touching picture
which we have from the pen of Gudin.

“A zealous partisan of royalty, after making himself trusted by those in
power and in the guise of a Sans-culotte, had penetrated to the presence
of the unhappy queen, then prisoner in the Temple. He was able to speak
to her and asked if there were anyone of whom she could think who might
help her, and he suggested Beaumarchais. The queen’s countenance
instantly fell.

“‘Alas,’ she said, ‘he now has it in his power to avenge himself for the
insult once offered him.’” And Gudin adds, “She did not know the heart
of Beaumarchais or that if it had been possible, now that she was in
trouble, he would have come to her relief with far more alacrity than in
the hey day of her power.”

But the storm now gathering, that was to sweep the mighty from their
seats, was destined also to vent its fury upon the man of the people
whose riches and honors long had been the objects of their jealous rage.
Twice he owed his safety to the poor whom he had assisted, but in the
general _débâcle_ which followed there was no opportunity for his wit or
his ingenuity to save him; the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_ and the
_Barbier_ was forced himself to bend before the storm.



CHAPTER XXIV


_”In my feeble childhood I was always astonished to see that the cheval
de bronze had its foot in the air, but never advanced.... Sad emblem of
my affairs, which like this image seem always to march, but which have
no movement.”_

                     _Beaumarchais to Ramel, Minister of Finance._


   The Marine of Beaumarchais—Success of His Business
     Undertakings—His Wealth—Ringing Plea of Self-Justification in the
     Cause of America, Addressed to the Commune of Paris, 1789—The
     Beautiful House Which He Built in Paris—His Liberality—His
     Friends—His Home Life—Madame de Beaumarchais—His Daughter,
     Eugénie.


Since the official declaration made by the French Government to the
Court of London, recognizing the independence of the United States,
England had considered that war had been declared, and on June 18, 1778,
she struck the first blow.

“Beaumarchais,” says Loménie, “disposed himself to make war as well as
to carry on commerce. See him now demanding sailors from the Minister of
the Navy, M. de Sartine, for the service of his great vessel, _le fier
Roderigue_!

                              “‘Paris, the 12th of December, 1778.

   “‘Monsieur:

   “‘If I presented myself to-day before you, and if I had the honor
   to propose to you to construct and arm a vessel of this
   importance, as one able to take the place of a vessel of the
   King, wherever I should send it, do you think, Monsieur, that you
   would refuse cannon and the title of Captain of a battleship to
   its Commander? How then can it be less precious when all is ready
   than if it were still to be built?

   “‘I beg your pardon; but the multiplicity of objects which occupy
   you may very easily hide from you the importance of my armament,
   consecrated to the triple employment of encouraging the commerce
   of France by my example and my success, of promising to provision
   the islands most in need, and of conducting to the continent of
   America, in the most stormy times, a French merchant fleet
   important enough to convince the new states by this effort of the
   great desire of France to support the new commercial bond that
   already joins us....

   “‘It is to your wisdom that I present these serious matters, and
   I dare say that there are none more worthy of the attention and
   protection of an enlightened minister such as you.

                                         “‘Caron de Beaumarchais.’

“_Le Fier Roderigue_,” continues Loménie, “set sail, with her sixty
cannon, convoying ten merchantmen. At the Isle of Granada it encountered
the fleet of the Admiral d’Estaing, which prepared to give battle to
that of the English Admiral Biron. Sighting the beautiful vessel of
Beaumarchais passing in the distance, the admiral made a sign for it to
come. Seeing that it belonged to His Majesty, Caron de Beaumarchais, he
assigned it to its post of battle without the authorization of its
proprietor, allowing the unfortunate merchantmen which this vessel was
protecting to go on at the mercy of the seas and of the English. _Le
Fier Roderigue_ resigned itself bravely to its fate, and took a glorious
part in the Battle of Granada and contributed its part to making the
English Admiral retire, but its captain was killed and it was riddled
with bullets. The evening of the combat the Comte d’Estaing, feeling the
need of consoling Beaumarchais, wrote to him a letter, which he sent
through the Minister of the Navy, the like of which is not often found
in the archives of a dramatic poet:

        “‘On board the Languedoc, the 12th of July, 1779.

   “‘I have only the time to write you that _le Fier Roderigue_ has
   held her post in line, and contributed to the success of the arms
   of the king. You will pardon me all the more readily for having
   used her, since your interests will not suffer from it, be sure
   of that. The brave M. de Montaut unfortunately was killed. I will
   urge the minister without ceasing for the favor of the state, and
   I hope you will aid me in soliciting that which your navy has
   very justly merited.

   “‘I have the honor to be, with all the sentiments which you have
   so well known how to inspire, Monsieur, your very humble and
   obedient servant,

   “‘Estaing.’

“The minister hastened to send the letter to Beaumarchais, who replied
as follows:

                                       “‘Paris, September 7, 1779.

   “‘Monsieur:

   “‘I thank you for having sent me the letter of the Comte
   d’Estaing. It is noble of him, in the moment of his triumph, to
   have thought that a word from his hand would be very agreeable to
   me.... Whatever may happen for my affairs, my poor friend Montaut
   died on the bed of honor, and I feel the joy of a child to know
   that my vessel has contributed to take from the English the most
   fertile of their possessions....

   “‘You know my tender and respectful devotion,

                                                  “‘Beaumarchais.’

“However, the joy of the patriot,” continued Loménie, “was somewhat
mitigated by the distress of the merchant. The report of the captain,
second in command of the _Fier Roderigue_, arrived at the same time, and
though it contributed equally to the glory of Beaumarchais, it was very
disastrous from the point of view of his coffer. He, therefore,
addressed a vigorous appeal to the King, asking for an indemnity which
would save him from ruin.” That the request was subsequently granted, we
may judge from the following extract from a letter to Necker, written a
little more than a year after the date of the battle, and given by
Gudin:

   “Paris, July 18th, 1780.

   “You have rendered, Monsieur, an act of justice in my regard, and
   you have done it with grace, which has touched me more than the
   thing itself. I thank you for it; but I owe you more important
   thanks upon the indemnity, which the King has been so good as to
   offer me for the enormous losses which the campaign with
   d’Estaing has caused me.”

Loménie asserts that the indemnity had been fixed at 2,000,000 francs,
and was to be paid in installments, the last coming to him in 1785.

But to return to the American Congress. After long debates a reversal of
parties had placed at the head of that body the honorable John Jay, who
hastened to address Beaumarchais with the first letter which came to him
from Congress, although his earliest shipment of supplies had been made
almost two years previously:

   “By express order of Congress, sitting in Philadelphia, to M.
   de Beaumarchais.

                                                “January 15, 1779.

   “Sir:

   “The Congress of the United States of America, recognizing the
   great efforts which you have made in their favor, presents to you
   its thanks, and the assurance of its esteem. It laments the
   disappointments which you have suffered in the support of these
   States. Disastrous circumstances have prevented the execution of
   its desires; but it will take the promptest measures to acquit
   itself of the debt which it has contracted towards you. The
   generous sentiments and the breadth of view, which alone could
   dictate a conduct such as yours, are the eulogy of your actions,
   and the ornament of your character. While, by your rare talents,
   you have rendered yourself useful to your prince, you have gained
   the esteem of this young Republic and merited the applause of the
   New World.

   “John Jay, President.”

This beautiful expression of the best feeling in the States must have
been soothing to the heart of Beaumarchais. That he understood the
attitude of America and knew very well the complexity of the situation
in which the young republic found itself involved, may be judged from
the following extract from his _Mémoire justicative à la cour de
Londres_, printed in the first collection of his works and written in
1779. He says:

“In truth, my ardent zeal for my new friends might well have been a
little wounded at the cold reception which was made to brave men whom I
had myself brought to expatriate themselves for the service. My pains,
my work, and my advances were immense in this respect. But I am
afflicted only for our unhappy officers, because even in the very
refusal of the Americans, I don’t know what exultation, what republican
pride attracted my heart, and showed me a people so ardent to conquer
their liberty, that they feared to diminish the glory of success in
allowing strangers to divide with them the perils. My soul thus is
composed; in the greatest evils it searches with care, and consoles
itself with the little good which it encounters. And so, while my
efforts had so little fruit in America ... sustained by my pride, I
disdained to defend myself, leaving the evil-minded to their proper
channel.

“The idle of Paris envied my happiness, and were jealous of me as a
favorite of fortune and of power; and I, sad plaything of events, alone,
deprived of rest, lost for society, exhausted by insomnia and troubles,
_tour à tour_ exposed to the suspicions, the ingratitude, anxieties, to
the reproaches of France, England and America; working day and night and
running to my goal by constant effort across a thorny land—I exhausted
myself with fatigue and advanced little. I felt my courage revived when
I thought that a great people would soon offer a sweet and free retreat
to all the persecuted of Europe; that my fatherland would be revenged
for the humiliation to which it had been subjected by the treaty of
1763; in a word, that the sea would become open to all commercial
nations; I was supported by the hope that a new system of politics would
open in Europe.”

[Illustration: THE BASTILLE]

But notwithstanding all his difficulties and losses, the affairs of
Beaumarchais were advancing steadily. His merchant fleet, after the
Treaty of Paris, signed in September, 1783, was no longer subject to the
risks of war, and soon began to bring him in vast returns. But as late
as March of this same year, we find him writing to Vergennes, in a
letter quoted by Gaillardet:

   “The taking of my two vessels cost me more than 800,000 livres,
   and since the publicity of my losses I have been drawn upon,
   through fear, for a similar sum. Remittances have come to me from
   America, and now unfortunately their payment is suspended. I have
   two new vessels at Nantes, one of 12,000 tons, which I destined
   for China, and which I am now unable to sell.

   “I have 80,000 livres worth of bales of merchandise on the
   _Aigle_, destined for Congress, and the _Aigle_ has been taken. A
   sudden inundation, which happened at Morlaige, has submerged two
   warehouses where I had 1,000,000 pounds of tea. The whole is
   damaged to-day.

   “Day before yesterday, at the instant of payment, the exchange
   agent of Girard by his fraudulent bankruptcy carried off near
   30,000 livres.

   “Two vessels must be sent to the Chesapeake before the middle of
   May if I am not to lose all the miserable remains of the tobacco
   of my stores in Virginia, the main part of which was burned by
   the English, because for four years _le Fier Roderigue_ has been
   detained at Rochefort, where it has at last decayed. This is the
   most trying time of my life; and you know M. le Comte that for
   three years I have had over 200,000 livres in disuse, because of
   the enormous mass of parchments which M. de Maurepas ordered me
   secretly to buy, wherever I found them. I shall perish if M. de
   Fleury does not promptly arrange with you to throw me the ‘on
   account’ which I demand, as one throws a cable to him whom the
   current carries away. I always have served my country well, and I
   will serve it still without recompense; I wish none. But in the
   name of Heaven, of the King, of compassion and of justice,
   prevent me from perishing or from hiding shamefully in a foreign
   country the little courage and talent which I always have sought
   to render useful to my country and to my King. What I ask is of
   the most rigorous equity and I will receive it as a favor.

   “I present to you the homages of him who has not slept for two
   months, but who is none the less, with the most respectful
   devotion, M. le Comte, your very humble and very obedient
   servitor,

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”

But let us now turn from this gloomy picture and cast a glance at the
home life of this man so buffeted before the world.

Bonneville de Marsangy, in his life of Madame de Beaumarchais has drawn
the picture for us. He says:

“Beaumarchais, in consequence of the noise which continued to be made
about his name, was none the less one of the personages the most sought
after of the capital. Whatever he says about it, the fact is that he
lived in great style. His stables contained as many as ten horses. He
kept open table; strangers of distinction, desirous of knowing the
popular author of so many celebrated works, solicited the honor of being
presented to him. He received men of distinction in politics, in letters
and arts, and women the most sought after, in the midst of whom the
mistress of the house shone in the first rank by her _esprit_, her
education, and her charms.... Nearly every evening in the Hotel
Boulevard St. Antonie, there was talking, music, playing, although the
master never took part in play. His _esprit_ was equally free, equally
alert, his fancy inexhaustible. It is there he loved to read his new
productions, and he excelled at that. Arnault recounts one of these
literary reunions at which he assisted, ‘in a great circular salon,
partly ornamented with mirrors, partly with landscapes of vast
dimensions, and half of which was occupied by seats for placing the
auditors. Upon an estrade, furnished with a desk, stood the armchair of
the reader. There, as in a theatre, Beaumarchais read, or rather played
his dramas; because it is to play, if one delivers a piece in as many
different inflexions of the voice as there are different personages in
the action; because it is to play if one gives to each one of the
personages the pantomime which should characterize him.’” (Arnault,
_Souvenirs d’un sexagénaire_, Vol. IV.)

And Gudin adds another touch to the portrait of this many-sided man;
after speaking of the loss of his mother, dying in her eighty-third
year, he said:

“Beaumarchais came at once to see me, offered me all the consolations of
friendship, and reclaimed the promise which we had given one another
long ago, to unite the rest of the days which nature reserved to us.

“It is thus that I found in the family of my friend all those attentions
which could sweeten the irreparable loss of the tenderest mother and one
whom I had quitted almost never.”

In 1787 Beaumarchais had accumulated a sufficient fortune to contemplate
the building of a superb residence, for which he already had bought the
land in that section of the City of Paris now occupied by the Boulevard
which bears his name. It was directly opposite the Bastille, and was not
yet completed on the memorable 14th of July, 1789, when the ancient
fortress was destroyed. This residence cost the owner one million six
hundred and sixty-three thousand francs. “_Une folie_,” Napoleon called
it. When in 1818, the government bought the property so as to make way
for the new boulevard, they paid the heirs of Beaumarchais only five
hundred thousand francs. As an investment, therefore, it was far from
successful; but as a residence, it was, while it lasted, one of the
sights of the city, and was regarded as such. It was the very last word
in elegance and comfort, and rivaled the most sumptuous palaces of the
capital. In the beginning, it was always open to the public, but so vast
became the horde of visitors, that very soon entrance was obtainable
only by tickets (though these were never refused to anyone who asked
politely for them).

Although the storm of the Revolution was gathering already, its shadow
had not yet fallen upon Beaumarchais, who did not foresee either its
fury or the extent of the devastation it was to carry in its train.

After the fall of the Bastille he had been appointed by the _Maire_ of
Paris to superintend the demolition of the structure so as to prevent
damage to buildings in the neighborhood. Soon after he was named member
of the Municipal Council, but, says Loménie, “denunciations soon began
to rain upon him. All the adversaries of his numerous lawsuits and all
those whom his riches irritated denounced him to the fury of the masses,
as one who upheld authority, or who was hoarding wheat or arms. His
house, situated at the very entrance to that terrible suburb, the center
of the mob, presented itself as a sort of insolent provocation, which
naturally called for the visits of the people.” To rid himself of these
dangerous visits became his constant preoccupation; first demanding
official visits, then placarding about him the results of these visits,
stating that nothing suspicious had been found in his possession, again
distributing about him all the money possible, and suggesting to the
municipality all sorts of charitable institutions, because “disorder and
misery always march in company.” Among the accusations persistently made
against him was that he had enriched himself at the expense of the
American people, and that he had sent them arms and munitions for which
he charged them a hundred times their value. Stung to the quick by the
falsehood of these accusations, coming as they did from his own
countrymen, he made a ringing protest of self-defense to the commune of
Paris in September, 1789, in which he said:

   “You condemn me to speak well of myself by speaking so ill of
   me.... Attacked by furious enemies, I have gained, perhaps with
   too much brilliancy, all the lawsuits undertaken against me,
   because I never have brought an action against anyone, although
   for the greatest benefits I have received almost universally, I
   dare say it, unheard of and constant ingratitude....

   “Since I have been attacked upon this point I am going to state
   before you all the unheard of labors, which a single man was able
   to accomplish in that great work. Frenchmen, you who pride
   yourselves to have drawn the desire and ardor of your liberty
   from the example of the Americans, learn that that nation owes me
   very largely her own. It is time that I should say it in the face
   of the universe, and if anyone pretends to contest what I say,
   let him rise and name himself; my proofs will reply to the
   imputations which I denounce....

   “These accusations, as vague as despicable, relate to the
   Americans whom I served so generously; I, who would be reduced to
   the alms which I scatter, had not noble foreigners, taken in a
   free country, associated me with the gains of a vast commerce,
   while I associated them to my constant losses with America! I,
   who dared form all the plans of help necessary to that people,
   and offered them to our ministers; I, who dared blame their
   indecision, their weakness, and so loudly reproach them with it,
   in my proud reply to the English manifest by Gibbon; I, who dared
   promise a success which was very far from being generally
   admitted....

   “All that I could obtain after a great deal of trouble ... was to
   be allowed to proceed on my own responsibility without the
   assistance of the government in any way, on condition of being
   stopped if the English made the least complaints, and of being
   punished if they produced proofs—which put so many hindrances in
   the way of my maritime operations, that to help the Americans, I
   was obliged to mask and to disguise my works in the interior; the
   expeditions, the ships, the manufactures of the contractors, and
   even to the reason of trade, which was a mask like the rest.

   “Shall I say it, Frenchmen? The King alone had courage, and as
   for me I worked for his glory, wishing to make him the prop of a
   proud people who burned to be free; because I had an immense debt
   to fulfil towards that good king.... Yes, the King, Louis XVI,
   who assured to the Americans their liberty, who gives you yours,
   Frenchmen, gave back to me also my estate. Let his name be
   honored in all the centuries. Then, leaving aside the labors
   which I am ready to expose in a work where I will prove that I
   sent at my risks and perils, whatever could be had of the best in
   France, in munitions, arms, clothing, etc., to the insurgents who
   needed everything, on credit, at the cost price, leaving them
   masters to fix the commission which they would one day pay to
   their friend (for so they called me); and that after twelve
   years, I am still not paid. I declare that the measures which I
   am making at this moment before their new federal court, to
   obtain justice of them,—faithful report which a committee of the
   Treasury has just given of what is due me, is the last effort of
   a very generous creditor. But I will publish everything, and the
   universe shall judge us. Omitting, I say, all the details of my
   work, of my services towards that people, I will pass to the
   testimony which was given me by the agent, the minister of
   America, before he left France. His letter of March 18th, 1778,
   bears these words:

     ‘After the perplexing and embarrassing scenes you have had to
     pass through, it must give you the most solid joy to see an
     armament going out to America.... I again congratulate you on
     this great and glorious event, to which you have contributed more
     than any other person.

                                                    ‘Silas Deane.’

   “Alas, that was the last of my successes. A minister of the
   department to whom I showed that letter, alas, though up to that
   time he had treated me with the greatest kindness, suddenly
   changed his tone, and his style. I did my best to persuade him
   that I did not pretend in any way to appropriate to myself that
   glory, but to leave it entirely to him. The blow had carried, he
   had read the praise; I was lost in his favor. It was to take from
   him all idea of my ambition, to avert the storm, that I
   recommenced to amuse myself with frivolous theatrical plays,
   while keeping a profound silence upon my political actions. But
   that helped nothing. It is very true that a year later, the
   general Congress, having received my vivid complaints upon the
   delay of payment, wrote me the ... letter by the Honorable Mr.
   John Jay, their president, the 15th of Jan. 1779....

   “If it was not money, it was at least gratitude. America, nearer
   the great services which I had rendered her, was not yet where
   she disputed her debts, fatiguing me with injustice, to wear out
   my life, if possible, and succeed in paying nothing. It is also
   true that the same year, the respectable Mr. Jefferson, to-day
   their minister in France, then Governor of Virginia, struck by
   the fearful losses which the depreciation of paper money would
   inflict upon me, wrote, to my general agent in America, M. de
   Francy, in these terms:

                                              “‘December 17, 1779.

     “‘Monsieur:

     “‘I am very much mortified that the depreciation of paper money,
     of which no one, I think, had the least idea at the time of the
     contract, passed between the supercargo of the _Fier Roderigue_
     (war vessel of mine, very richly charged, the cargo of which had
     been delivered on credit to Virginia, which state owes me still
     almost the whole, after more than twelve years have passed), and
     that state has enveloped in the general loss M. de Beaumarchais,
     who has merited so well of us, and who has excited our greatest
     veneration by his affection for the true rights of man, his
     genius, his literary reputation, etc.

                                      Signed, “‘Thomas Jefferson.’

   “In the work, which I am going to publish, where I will show the
   proofs of the excellence of all my shipments to that people,
   after exact inspection which they themselves made, before the
   departure of my vessels, well attested by their ministers, and
   the excuses which he made me, of which I have all the originals,
   the surprise will be to see the patience with which I have
   supported all the invectives of my enemies. But it would have
   been to disgrace _the greatest act of my life_, the honorable
   part which I had in the liberty of America, if I had mingled it
   with the discussions of a vile law suit.... It was my scorn, my
   indignation, which made me keep silence. It is broken; I will
   hold my tongue no more on that great object, _the glory of my
   entire life_. They say that my sordid avarice has been the cause
   of the misfortunes of the American people. _My_ avarice, mine,
   whose life is only a circle of generosity, of benevolence. I will
   not cease to prove it, since their savage libels have rendered so
   many men unjust. Not a single being, who went at that time from
   Europe to America, without having pecuniary obligations to me, of
   which nearly all are due me still; and no Frenchman has suffered
   in that country whom I have not aided with my purse. I invoke a
   witness, whom it does you honor to respect, the very valiant
   general of your troops. Ask him if my services did not hunt out
   unfortunate Frenchmen in every corner of America.

   “Render justice to my good heart, noble Marquis de Lafayette;
   Your glorious youth, would it not have been ruined without my
   wise counsel and the advances of my money? You have very well
   repaid all that was loaned you by my orders; and I say it to your
   glory, you have added fifty louis more than were due to me, to
   join that money to the charitable institution which I was
   founding of the _pauvres mères nourrices_....

   “And you, Baron von Steuben, Comtes Pulasky, Bienousky, you,
   Tronçon, Prudhomme, and a hundred others, who have never
   acquitted their debts to me, come out of your tombs and speak!

   “Fifteen hundred thousand francs at least, of services rendered,
   fill a portfolio, which probably will never be acquitted by
   anyone, and more than a thousand unfortunates whose needs I have
   anticipated are ready to raise their voice in my favor.... The
   third of my fortune is in the hands of my debtors, and since I
   have aided the poor of Sainte-Marguerite, four hundred letters at
   least are on my desk from unfortunates, raising their hands to
   me.... My heart is torn, but I cannot reply to all.

                                             “September 2, 1789.”

But from the accusations of his enemies, and the pleadings of his own
cause, let us turn, before worse calamities overtake him, to contemplate
anew the charming picture, which the interior of his home presents.

It was in 1791 that he took his family to occupy the splendid new
residence which we have just now mentioned. Its mistress Madame de
Beaumarchais was a woman of rare intelligence and energy of character;
“her physiognomy,” says Bonneville, “offered an expression full of
vivacity and intelligence. The eye is superb, tempered by long lashes,
heightened by the daring arch of the brows; the mouth is admirably well
formed; the chin full, the complexion brilliant.... The reputation for
beauty of Madame de Beaumarchais was general. The public ratified on all
occasions, the praise of her friends. It is traditional in her family
that she rarely left her home without being recognized and followed at a
distance by a cortège of admirers, drawn not only by the celebrity of
the name she bore, but also by the prestige of her bearing. Often, even,
she was obliged to gain her carriage to avoid the importunity of the too
flattering attentions.

“Beaumarchais, as he confesses perhaps superfluously, was far from being
a devotee; still he respected the beliefs of others; he had desired
especially that his daughter should be brought up piously. Eugénie was
at this moment a pupil at the convent of Bon Secours; her father often
went there to visit her. The Superior, who had had proof of the generous
and good heart of the father of her pupil, permitted herself to speak of
one of the school-mates of Eugénie who was unable to pay the expenses of
her education. The author of the _Mariage de Figaro_ replied at once in
the following delicate manner:

                                                  “‘July 27, 1790.

   “‘I send you, Madame, a bill of 200 livres for your unfortunate
   pupil. This is for the year. I will have the honor of giving to
   you or to her, in money, the first time I go to the convent,
   three louis, which will make six francs a month for this year,
   the same as I give to my daughter; but I conjure you, Madam, that
   my help does not force or press her vocation. I should be
   distressed if she were in any way thwarted as to her future. I
   have not the honor of knowing her; it is the good which you have
   said of her which determined me. That she remains free, and less
   unhappy, this is all the thanks I ask; keep the secret for me. I
   am surrounded with virulent enemies.’

“One cannot,” continues Bonneville, “hide oneself more gallantly, to do
good.

“The prioress hastened to divulge the secret; and to the rough draft of
the letter of Beaumarchais found among his papers, is attached a note in
which his young protégée expressed with emotion all her gratitude to her
benefactor.”

The violences directed against the religious establishments soon forced
Beaumarchais to bring his daughter home. It was about this time that we
find a letter, addressed by the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_, to
the Municipal officers of Paris, begging, with his characteristic
energy, that the churches be opened, and more masses be said in the
Quartier-Vieille-rue-du-Temple.

“In this letter,” says Loménie, “it is the husband, the brother, but
especially the father who speaks. The author of the _Mariage de Figaro_
adored his only daughter, he had just brought her home from the convent,
and if he went himself very little to mass, he was not sorry to have her
go for him. It is this side of Beaumarchais, so good, so simple, so
jovial, so gay, that makes us love him, and which comes out with special
force in a song which he wrote to celebrate the young girl’s return
under her father’s roof. This song has been classed as one of the best
of the poetic inspirations of Beaumarchais. The turn _naïf_ of the old
popular songs is found in it, combined with a graceful mixture of
friendliness, finesse and gaiety.”

The charm of these verses, which it is impossible to render into
English, gave the song a great popularity, and it circulated widely.

In it, there was question of the marriage of Mlle. Eugénie, where the
father jestingly says: “My _gentilhomme_, is that all you are?

   “Parchment and blazonry will never open my house.

   “_If someone really tender,
   Sings thee songs in the air,
   Let me hear them
   For thy Father sees clear
   And I will say if there is reason
   That he should enter here._

   “_Should some excellent young man
   See heaven in thy eyes,
   Say to him ‘Beautiful astronomer,
   Speak to that good old man,
   He is my father, and there is reason
   That he should choose his son-in-law.’_

   “_If he has some talent
   What matters his fortune?
   Judge, writer, soldier,
   Esprit, virtue, sweet reason—
   These are the titles valued here._”

“The result of all this was that Beaumarchais was deluged,” says
Loménie, “with the most singular demands in marriage for his daughter.
Here it is from a nobleman, but one who makes no point of his blazon,
who despises the fortune which he has not, who esteems only virtue, and
who aspires to marry Mlle. Eugénie and her dot; there, from a father,
perfectly unknown to Beaumarchais, who begs him to keep the daughter for
his son, still in college; farther on it is a captain, who has only his
sword, but who is worthy of being a Marshal of France. Politely to turn
aside this avalanche of virtuous and disinterested suitors, the father
of Eugénie wrote a letter which, with slight modifications, serves him
for all, and of which the following is a sample:

                                             “Paris, May 21, 1791.

   “Although your letter, Monsieur, appears to have its origin in a
   simple jest, since it is serious and honest, I owe you a reply.

   “You have been deceived regarding my daughter. Scarcely fourteen
   years old, she is far from the time when I will allow her to
   choose a master, reserving for myself in this only, the right to
   advise. Perhaps you are quite ignorant of the exact situation. I
   have only lately taken my daughter from the convent; the joy of
   her return drew from my indolence a song, which after having been
   sung at my table, went the rounds. The tone _bonhomme_ which I
   there took, joined to the jest of her future establishment, has
   made many persons think that I already thought of her settlement.

   “But may I be preserved from engaging her before the time when
   her own heart will give her a consciousness of what it all means,
   and Monsieur, this will be an affair of years, not of months.

   “What the song says jestingly, however, will certainly be my rule
   to enlighten her young heart. Fortune touches me less than
   talents and virtue, because I wish her to be happy....

                                                   “Beaumarchais.”

But the young girl’s presence under her father’s roof was to be of short
duration. Very soon, his anxiety for their safety led him to dispatch
his family to Havre. For, says La Harpe,

“His house was placed at the entrance of that terrible faubourg like the
Palace of Portici at the foot of Vesuvius.... The eruption of the
volcano was as yet only at rare intervals; that of the faubourg was at
every moment. It is inconceivable that under the lava always boiling,
that house was not engulfed.”

So it is here we will leave him to await alone,—except for his faithful
Gudin—the coming of the storm, which his own writings had done so much
to rouse, but which he neither desired, nor, to the end, comprehended.

[Illustration: HOUSE OF BEAUMARCHAIS]



CHAPTER XXV


“_I know very well to live is to combat, and perhaps I should be
afflicted at this if I did not know that in return to combat is to
live._”

   _Caron de Beaumarchais._

“_—Often broken-hearted, always consoled by the sublime principle of the
compensation of good and evil—which was the ground of his optimism ..._”

   _Lintilhac in Beaumarchais et Ses Œuvres._


   House of Beaumarchais Searched—The 10th of August—Letter to his
     Family in Havre—Letter of Eugénie to her Father—Commissioned to
     Buy Guns for the Government—Goes to Holland as Agent of _Comité
     de Salut Public_—Declared an Emigré—Confiscation of his
     Goods—Imprisonment of his Family—The Ninth Thermidor Comes to
     Save Them—Life During the Terror—Julie again in
     Evidence—Beaumarchais’s Name Erased From List of Emigrés—Returns
     to France.


Early in 1792, Beaumarchais embarked in a new political and commercial
operation which, says Loménie, “was destined to embarrass his fortune
and to be the torment of his latter days. France was without arms and he
undertook to procure them for her. It is difficult to understand that a
man sixty years old, rich, fatigued by a most stormy existence,
afflicted with increasing deafness, surrounded with enemies, and
desirous only of repose should have allowed himself to be induced to
attempt to bring into France sixty thousand guns detained in Holland
under circumstances which rendered this operation as dangerous as it was
difficult.”

However, Gudin tells us, “he had only the choice of dangers. To have
refused to procure the arms would have marked him for disfavor. He
therefore chose the danger of being useful to his country. This
resolution exposed him to the risk of being pillaged and assassinated,
but in the end it saved his life.... During the days of frenzy which
preceded the overthrowing of the throne, the most hostile menaces
sounded around his house.”

The populace insisted that he had stored it with wheat and guns. In vain
Beaumarchais protested, in vain he placarded the walls of his garden
with official statements proving that the house had been searched and
that nothing had been found. The fury of the mob was not to be appeased.
Finally on the 8th of August, the threatenings became so ominous that he
was persuaded to spend the night in the home of a friend, who had sought
safety outside Paris, leaving an old domestic alone in charge.
Beaumarchais says:

“At midnight the valet, frightened, came to the room where I was,
‘Monsieur,’ he said to me, ‘get up, the people are searching for you,
they are beating the doors down, someone has turned traitor, the house
will be pillaged.’ ... The frightened man hid in a closet while the mob
searched the house.” When morning came, he returned to his own home,
around which the threatenings still continued without ceasing.

Gudin says: “He received the most alarming notices, and the day after
the imprisonment of the king, August 10th, a great multitude set out in
the direction of his house, threatening to break down the iron gates if
they were not immediately opened. I and two other persons were with him.

“At first his desire was to open the doors and to speak to the
multitude. But persuaded that secret enemies conducted the crowd, and
that he would be assassinated before he could open his mouth, we induced
him to leave the house by a side entrance.... As we were but four we
decided to separate in the hope of deceiving those who sought him....

“Whatever the cause, once admitted and masters of the situation, someone
proposed to swear that they would destroy nothing. The populace swore
and kept its word. Always extreme, it even swore to hang anyone who
stole anything. It visited the whole house, the closets, the granaries,
the cellars, and the apartments of the women and my own. They wished to
hang my own domestic, who seeing the crowd, ran from room to room with
some of my silver hidden in her pocket; they thought she was stealing,
and she was forced to call in the other domestics as witnesses. They
searched everywhere and found only the gun, hunting case, and sword of
the master of the house, these they did not disturb.

“Thirsty from excitement and fatigue, that breathless troop, instead of
opening a cask of wine, satisfied itself with water from the fountain.
They even left the master’s watch hanging at the head of his bed, and
other articles of jewelry about the rooms.... A troup conducted by a
magistrate would not have been more exact in its perquisition, or more
circumspect in its conduct.

“Truth here resembles fable,—something extraordinary always mingled
itself with the events which came to Beaumarchais. This conduct of the
populace was the fruit of the benefits which he had poured upon the poor
of his neighborhood. If he had not been loved, if he had not been dear
to his domestics, all his goods would have been dissipated by pillage.”

The next day Beaumarchais wrote to his daughter in Havre:

                                                 “August 12, 1792.

   “ ... My thoughts turned upon thy mother, and thee and my poor
   sisters. I said with a sigh, ‘My child is safe; my age is
   advanced; my life is worth very little and this would not
   accelerate the death by nature but by a few years. But my
   daughter! Her mother! They are safe? Tears flowed from my eyes.
   Consoled by this thought I occupied myself with the last term of
   life, believing it very near. Then, my head hollow through so
   much contending emotion, I tried to harden myself and to think of
   nothing. I watched mechanically the men come and go; I said, ‘The
   moment approaches,’ but I thought of it as a man exhausted, whose
   ideas begin to wander, because for four hours I had been standing
   in this state of violent emotion which changed into one like
   death. Then feeling faint, I seated myself on a bank and awaited
   my fate, without being otherwise alarmed.”

“When the crowd had retired,” says Gudin in his narrative, “Beaumarchais
returned and dined in his home, more astonished to find all undisturbed
than he would have been to have seen the whole devastated....”

“And so we continued to live alone in that great habitation, occupied in
meditating on the misfortunes of the state and sometimes upon those
which menaced us....

“On the 23rd of August, upon awakening I perceived armed men in the
streets, sentinels at the doors and under the windows. I hastened to the
apartment of my friend—I found him surrounded by sinister men occupied
in searching his papers and putting his effects under seal. Tranquil in
the midst of them, he directed their operations. When they were through,
they took him with them and I was left alone in that vast palace,
guarded by _sans culottes_ whose aspect made me doubt whether they were
there to conserve the property, or to give the signal for pillage.”

Beaumarchais had been carried off to the _mairie_ (police court) “where
he defended himself so perfectly,” continues Gudin, “that his denouncers
were confounded and about to liberate him when Marat denounced him
anew.... He was sent to l’Abbaye along with others whose virtues were a
title of proscription.

“At the end of a week his name was called. General consternation in the
prison.

“‘You are called for.’

“‘By whom?’

“‘M. Manuel. Is he your enemy?’

“‘I never saw him.’ Beaumarchais went out. All the assembly sat silent.

“‘Who is M. Manuel?’ demanded Beaumarchais.

“‘I am he. I come to save you. Your denouncer, Colmar, is declared
culpable—he is in prison—you are free.’ ...

“Two days later came the September massacres. And thus a second time his
life was saved. ‘Long afterwards he learned that a woman to whom he had
rendered an eminent service had solicited Manuel to obtain the liberty
of her benefactor.’” (_Gudin_, p. 430.)

“It would seem natural,” says M. de Loménie, “that in such a moment, the
author of the _Mariage de Figaro_ would consent to set aside the matter
of the guns and occupy himself with his own personal safety.”

He consented, however, to hide himself during the day outside Paris, but
every night he returned on foot by byways and across ploughed fields, to
urge the ministers to make good the promises of their predecessors and
make it possible for him to obtain the sixty-thousand guns from Holland
which he had promised the nation.

“The fact was,” says Loménie, “that on the one hand, until those guns
were delivered, he remained an object of suspicion to the people, while
on the other he believed that the minister Lebrun was trying to exploit
the matter to his own credit while leaving to Beaumarchais, if
necessary, all the responsibility of failure. This was what rendered him
so tenacious, that he tormented even Danton who, by the way, could not
help laughing to see a man so badly compromised who should be thinking
only of his safety, obstinately returning every night to demand the
money which had been promised as a deposit, and to obtain a commission
for Holland.”

Finally Lebrun consented to give the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_ a
passport to Holland and promised to have the necessary money ready for
him at Havre.

“He set out,” says Lintilhac, “on the 22nd of September, 1792, with
Gudin, directing himself toward Havre, where, after so many emotions, he
wished to press his wife and his daughter in his arms. From there, he
passed to England where he was arrested, imprisoned, then set free. As
soon as Madame de Beaumarchais knew that her husband was safe, she
returned to Paris to be nearer, so as to defend his interests. A noble
task which she accomplished at the peril of her life.

“The departure of Beaumarchais, the motive of which remained a secret,
emboldened his enemies who renewed their accusations. The 28th of
November a second decree was rendered against him as suspected.
Immediately seals were placed upon all the houses which he owned in
Paris. Madame de Beaumarchais hastened to protest the accusations
against her husband and against the placing of the seals. With great
difficulty she finally obtained a decree dated February 10, 1793, which
accorded to her husband a delay of two months to present his defense and
at the same time the immediate removal of the seals. He wrote from
London, December 9, 1792, to his family:

   “‘My poor wife and thou, my dear daughter. I do not know where
   you are, nor where to write to you, neither by whom to give you
   news. Still I learn by the gazette that seals have been placed
   for the third time on my property and that I am decreed, accused
   for this miserable affair of the guns of Holland.... Be calm, my
   wife and my sisters. Dry thy tears, my sweet and tender child!
   they trouble the tranquillity of which thy father has need to
   enlighten the National Convention upon grave subjects which it is
   important it should know.’”

Beaumarchais returned immediately to France, drew up a memoir for his
justification, secured the removal of the seals at Paris; but the
municipality of Strausborg maintained those which it had imposed.
Beaumarchais grew impatient, addressed a petition to the minister of the
interior who sent a dispatch to the administrator of that department of
the Bas-Rhein. Again, the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_ is
vindicated and absolved.

The troubles of Beaumarchais showed no signs of diminishing either in
number or perplexity. In the month of January, 1793, the English
government, having joined the coalition against France, was on the point
of herself taking possession of the sixty-thousand guns for which
Beaumarchais had so long been negotiating.

“He, however,” says Loménie, “did not lose his head, having already had
wind of the project. At the very time when he was imprisoned in London
he had induced an English merchant ... by means of a large commission
... to become the purchaser of those same guns and to maintain them in
his name at Tervère as English property, until the real owner could
dispose of them. But the fictitious owner could not hold them long,
because the English ministers said to him, ‘Either you are the real
owner or you are not; if you are, we are ready to pay for them; if you
are not, we intend to confiscate them.’ ...

“The English merchant remaining faithful to the engagement with
Beaumarchais, resisted; affirmed the guns to be his property, invoked
his right to dispose of them as he pleased, and this respect for law
which distinguishes the English Government above all other governments,
left the question undecided. The guns remained at Tervère under guard of
an English battleship.” (_Loménie_, Vol. II, p. 424.)

“Things were at this pass when the committee of public safety informed
Beaumarchais that he must secure the arms, or else prevent their falling
into the hands of the English; failing which his family and goods in
default of his person would answer for the success of the operation.”
And so, early in June, 1793, again he left France on this most difficult
mission.

“To enter into all the details of his interminable _tours et détours_,
going from Amsterdam to Basle, from Basle to Hamburg, from Hamburg to
London ... all which he directed like a very ingenious _intrigue de
comédie_ ... would be too long. He was able to keep the guns at Tervère
and when the moment seemed to him favorable, he supplicated the
committee of public safety with loud cries, to order the General
Pichegru to come and carry off the guns; but the committee absorbed by a
thousand things made no reply.... The only missive he ever received
from them was the following, dated, _5 pluviose, An II_ (January 26,
1794), written by Robert Lindet, ‘You must be quick, do not await
events. If you defer too long, your service will not be appreciated.
Great returns are necessary and they must be prompt. It is of no use to
calculate the difficulties, we consider only results and success.’”

“Not only,” continues Loménie, “did the Committee abandon Beaumarchais
to himself, but with a thoughtlessness which is another sign of the
times, they allowed their agent to be put upon the lists as an _émigré_,
which act entailed the confiscation of his property.

“Madame de Beaumarchais went at once to the committee of public safety,
explained that her husband was _not_ an _émigré_, since he had left the
territory of the republic because of an official mission, and provided
with a regular passport, and her proof in her hand, she succeeded in
having the decree withdrawn and the seals removed from the property.
Beaumarchais had at this time taken refuge in Hamburg.

“He found himself,” says Loménie, “in the most cruel situation both
materially and morally. He knew that the revolutionary tribunal was
fixed permanently at Paris, that it struck without pity mothers, wives,
and daughters of the absent ones, and that the bloody knife never ceased
to fall. The unfortunate man was in torture. Eugénie tried to comfort
her father in the unconscious tranquillity of a young girl. Every
precaution had been taken to hide from her the horrible tragedy which
was being enacted about her; she presented a striking contrast with the
terrible reality of the times.

“She walked alone and melancholy in the lovely garden, while the dismal
car passed along the terrace perhaps. But in her sad dreaming, she did
not turn her head; she admired the earliest advances of spring. On March
11th, she wrote to her father,

“‘The verdure of our trees is beginning to appear, the leaves develop
from day to day, and flowers already beautify thy garden. It would be
very lovely, if we could walk here with thee. Thy presence would add a
charm to everything which surrounds us. There is no happiness for me but
what thou partakest in. We are only happy through thee, oh my tender
father!’”

The very next day measures were taken which ended in the annulling of
the decree rendered by the _comité de salut public_ in which the _comité
de sûreté générale_, which had taken its place, once more declared
Beaumarchais to be an _émigré_, replaced the seals upon his property,
confiscated his revenues and on the 5th of July, 1794, arrested his
wife, his two sisters, and his daughter.

They were shut up in the convent of Port-Royal which had been changed
into a prison and which, says Loménie, “by an atrocious irony was called
_Port-Libre_, where they waited their turn to mount the fatal cart that
should conduct them to the guillotine.” The ninth _thermidore_ came to
put an end to these butcheries. Eleven days later, another decree of the
_comité de sûreté générale_, again established, gave to the _Citoyennes_
Caron their liberty.

During this frightful period of the terror, Beaumarchais, still at
Hamburg, deprived of all communication with his family, was a prey to
the most terrible mental agony. His correspondence shows that he had
moments of the deepest despair when he asked himself if he were not
losing his mind.

“Where shall I address thee?” he wrote his wife. “Under what name? What
shall I call thee? Who are thy friends? Whom can I consider mine? Ah,
without the hope of saving my daughter, the atrocious guillotine would
be sweeter to me than my horrible condition.”

It was at this period that the following address to the American people
was written.

   “Americans: Though I have served you with an indefatigable zeal,
   I have in my life received only bitterness for recompense, and I
   die your creditor. Permit then in dying that I will to my
   daughter the debt which you owe me. Perhaps after I am gone,
   other injustices, from which I cannot defend myself, will rob me
   of all I possess so nothing will be left for her, and perhaps
   Providence has ordained by your delay in paying me, that through
   you she will be spared absolute want. Adopt her as a worthy child
   of the state. Her mother, equally unfortunate, and my widow, will
   conduct her to you. Let her be looked upon as the daughter of a
   citizen! But if after these last efforts, if after all has been
   said, I must still feel that you will reject my demands—If I am
   to fear that you will refuse her arbitrators; at last, desperate,
   ruined in Europe as well as by you, your country being the only
   one in which I could beg without shame—what would remain for me
   to do, but to supplicate Heaven to give me the strength to take
   the voyage to America?

   “Arrived in your midst, mind and body weakened, unable to
   maintain my rights, should I there be forced, my proofs in my
   hand, to have myself carried to the doors of your National
   Assembly, and, holding aloft the cap of liberty, with which I
   helped as much as anyone to adorn your heads—to cry out ‘Give an
   alms to your friend, whose accumulated services have only had
   this recompense, _date obolum Belisario_!’

                             “Pierre-Augustin Caron Beaumarchais.”

It was precisely to save her daughter, that Madame de Beaumarchais had
broken all communication with her husband, retaken her family name and
thought only of making herself forgotten.

“The Revolutionary laws,” says Gudin, “ordained the divorce of the wives
of _émigrés_, under pain of being suspected and of running the risk of
death that could not be inflicted upon their husbands. Madame de
Beaumarchais, worthy of the courageous man whose hand she had received,
went to the Revolutionary Committee and with that firmness which
inspired respect and that grace which embellished every action, said,
‘Your decrees oblige me to demand a divorce. I obey, although my
husband, charged with a commission is not an _émigré_ and never had the
thought: I attest it and I know his heart. He will justify himself of
this accusation, as he has of all the rest, and I shall have the
satisfaction of marrying him a second time, according to your new
laws.’”

“Such was the effect of his destiny,” observes this eighteenth century
philosopher, “that he was obliged to renew the knot of his own marriage
at the same time that he occupied himself with the marriage of his
daughter.”

The condition of the family of Beaumarchais when they found themselves
once more free, was far from enviable. Their revenues had been seized
and their beautiful home was ordered to be sold. Eugénie felt only
horror for the place and persuaded her mother to live in a small house.
Gudin had gone into the country and Julie, the faithful sister of
Beaumarchais, went to live alone with an old servant in the deserted
palace of her brother, which was now guarded by agents of the Republic
and which bore written upon its walls, “_Propriété nationale_.”

“If, as I hope,” says Loménie, “the reader has retained an agreeable
impression of Julie, it will be a pleasure perhaps to see again that
intelligent, merry, courageous face which neither age, privations, nor
dangers had been able to change.

“A picture of the domestic and inner life of three women, once rich,
forced to face the difficulties of a fearful epoch will give details of
interest to that period which history itself cannot furnish.

“During the time when the head of the household was proscribed, it was
Madame Beaumarchais, a person of rare merit who joined to all feminine
graces a truly virile energy of character, who bore the weight of the
situation and while working on one hand to prevent the sale of her
husband’s property, tried on the other, to have his name erased from the
fatal list; and all the time was obliged to provide for her family with
what she had been able to save from the wreck of their fortune. On her
side Julie guarded the house of her brother, kept her sister-in-law in
touch with events at the house, and urged her to resistance in the
animated and original tone which characterised her.

“‘Morbleu! my child,’ she wrote her after the Terror, ‘let us quickly
get the decree suppressed. Even the fruits, the same as last year, are
requisitioned; the cherries being ripe, they are to be picked to-morrow
and sold, and the rest as it ripens, and then close the garden to the
profane and the gluttons! Isn’t it sweet to have lived here alone for
six months, and only be allowed to eat the stones of the fruit? And even
they are sold with the rest. It is for the birds that I am sorry ...
nevertheless, it is a pity that the agency had to interfere this year;
... See if thou cannot prevent this brigandage by a firm protest at the
agency....

“‘And here a pound of veal has been brought me which costs twenty-eight
francs, and at even that it is a bargain, for it might sell for thirty.
Rage! Fury! Malediction! One cannot even live by ruining oneself and
devouring three times one’s fortune. How happy those who have gone
before! They feel neither the confusion in my head, nor my eye which
weeps, nor the flame which devours me, nor my tooth which sharpens
itself to eat twenty-eight francs worth of veal; they feel none of these
evils.’

“Those twenty-eight francs worth of veal, which Julie consumed with
humorous anger, bring us to say a word of the curious state of want
which was produced by the constant depreciation of paper money after the
Terror. It is still Julie who informs us how people lived at that time;
her sister-in-law had just given her four thousand francs in paper money
and she returned an account of the use to which she put them that
December 1794.

“‘When you gave me those four thousand francs, my good friend, my heart
beat fast. I thought you suddenly had lost your reason to give me such a
fortune; I slipped them quickly into my pocket and spoke of other
things, so that you would forget them.

“‘Returned home and quick, some wood, some provisions, before the prices
go higher! And see Dupont (the old servant) who runs, exhausts herself!
And lo, the scales fall from my eyes when I see the result of four
thousand, two hundred, and seventy-five francs.

   “‘One load of wood                     1,460 fr.

     Nine pounds of candles                 900

     Four pounds of sugar                   400

     Three litrons (six qts.), of grain     120

     Seven pounds of oil                    700

     A dozen wicks                           60

     A bushel and a half potatoes           300


     Laundry bill for one month             215

     One pound of powder for the hair        70

     Three ounces of pomade (that used to be
       three sous)                           50
                                          _________
                                          4,275 fr.

   Over and above this is the provision for
   the month, butter, eggs, at 100 francs,
   as you know, and meat from 25 to 30
   francs a pound and all else in
   proportion                               576

   Bread, there has been none for two days;
   we only get it every other day—for the
   last ten days I have only bought 4
   pounds at 45 fr.                         180
                                          _________
                                          5,022 fr.

“‘When I think of this royal expenditure which costs me from eighteen to
twenty thousand francs without allowing myself the least luxury,
_J’envoie au diable le régime_.’

“Shortly after this the value of paper money decreased still more and
the price of commodities increased in alarming proportion. In another
letter to her sister-in-law Julie gave the following details:

“‘Ten thousand francs which I have scattered in the last two weeks, give
me such a fright, seize me with such pity that I no longer know how to
count my income. In the last three days, wood has risen from 4,200
francs to 6,500 and all the costs of transporting and piling are in
proportion, so that my load of wood has cost me 7,100 francs. Every week
it costs from 700 to 800 francs for a _pot-au-feu_, and other meat
without counting butter, eggs, and a thousand other details; laundry
work has increased so that 8,000 francs are not enough for one month.
All this makes me impatient and I solemnly affirm that I have not for
two years allowed myself a luxury, or gratified a single whim, or made
any other expenditures but for the house; nevertheless the needs I have
are urgent enough to make me need potfulls of money.’

“But if the sister of Beaumarchais is at the point of famine, the wife
and the daughter are no better off; I see in the correspondence of
Madame de Beaumarchais that one of her friends went the rounds of the
neighborhood to try to obtain some bread which was becoming rarer than
diamonds; ‘I am told,’ she wrote, the 5th of June 1795, ‘that at Briare,
flour is to be had, if that is true I will make a bargain with some
country man and send it direct to you by the barge which goes from
Briare to Paris, but that will greatly increase the cost. Please tell me
what you think, while waiting I still hope to get hold of a small loaf
somewhere. Oh, if I had the gift of miracles, I would send you, not
manna from heaven—but good bread and very white!’

“When Beaumarchais in exile, learned all the deprivations from which his
family suffered he learned also that they had sufficient moral courage
to support them. Gaiety had not wholly disappeared from that interior
which used to be so joyous; even if exposed to starvation, the frightful
guillotine no longer operated and one began to breathe more freely.”

One of his old friends wrote to him, “See now the soup tureen of the
family arrive, that is to say, upon the mahogany table (there is no such
thing as a cloth) is a plate of beans, two potatoes, a carafe of wine,
with very much water. Thy daughter asks for a white poodle to use as a
napkin and clean the plates—but no matter, come, come; if we have
nothing to eat we have plenty to laugh about. Come, I tell thee, for
thy wife needs a miller since thy _salon_ is decorated with a flour
mill; while thy Eugénie charms thee upon her piano, thou wilt prepare
her breakfast, while thy wife knits thy stockings, and thy future
son-in-law turns baker; for here everyone has his trade and that is why
our cows are so well guarded.

“It is too droll to see our women, without perruque in the morning,
filling each one her occupation, because you must know that each one of
us is at their service and because in our _régime_, if there are no
masters, there are at least valets. This letter costs thee at least a
hundred francs counting the paper, pens, the oil of the lamp, because
for economy’s sake I came to thy house to write it. We embrace thee with
all our hearts.”

And his faithful Gudin wrote him, though in much more somber strain,
from his retreat in the country: “My most ardent desire, my friend, is
to see you again and to press you to my heart; but circumstances are
such that I had to leave Paris where I could no longer subsist. I have
taken refuge in a little hamlet fifty miles away, where there are
thirteen peasant cabins. The house which I inhabit was a tiny priory,
occupied once by a single monk.” And after a very long and profoundly
pessimistic discourse upon the sad condition of affairs which he likens
to the barbarity which formerly engulfed Greece and Egypt and Assyria,
Sicily, and Italy, he terminates thus:

“Adieu my good friend, I would have wished to have talked to you of
yourself, of your family, of those whom you love, the regrets which we
feel to meet no more together. Our hearts like your own, are crushed
with sorrow.... I embrace you and sigh for the happy moment that will
unite us.

                                                          “Gudin.”

[Illustration: MADAME DE BEAUMARCHAIS]

Now that his anxieties for his family were allayed, Beaumarchais was
not idle, for his stay in Hamburg was occupied in drawing up memoirs
upon matters of public utility, in commercial negotiations, and in
agreeable companionships with distinguished _émigrés_ who like himself
were anxiously awaiting the moment when they could return to France.

As for Beaumarchais, the affair of the 60,000 guns had ended,
distressingly enough for his coffers, by the English carrying them off.
They consented, however, at the urgent request of the merchant friend,
to pay an arbitrary sum which was, however, far below their real value,
but saved Beaumarchais from complete ruin. The affair ended, his only
desire was to return home. This he was prevented from doing because of
the proscription unjustly continued against him, which all the efforts
of his friends and his family had been as yet unable to have removed.

Finally a member of the committee which he was serving, the same Robert
Lindet before mentioned, wrote in his behalf to the minister of police,
Cochon, the following letter:

   “You have asked me to enlighten you regarding the second mission
   of Citizen Beaumarchais, and upon the exact time when that
   mission ended or should end.

   “In charging the Citizen Beaumarchais with a mission, the
   committee of public safety proposed to itself two objects. The
   first was to procure the 60,000 guns deposited in the armory at
   Tervère, as objects of commerce; the second was to prevent these
   guns from falling into the power of the enemy.

   “The Committee was obliged to pay for them only at the agreed
   price on condition that they should be delivered and placed at
   their disposition in one of the ports of the Republic, within
   five or six months, The negotiation might take longer, but these
   terms were used to excite the zeal of the Citizen Beaumarchais.

   “Before the expiration of the term he sent from Holland to Paris,
   the Citizen Durand, his friend, who had accompanied him on his
   journey, to give an account of the obstacles which delayed the
   execution of the enterprise and to propose measures which he
   thought were needful.

   “Citizen Durand was sent back to Citizen Beaumarchais with a
   revised passport, which ran thus; ‘to conduct him to his
   destination and to continue his mission;’ because it seemed
   important to procure the guns for the government at whatever time
   that should be found possible, and also that the enemy should be
   prevented from seizing and distributing them in Belgium among the
   partisans of the house of Austria.

   “The department of Paris placed the Citizen Beaumarchais upon the
   list of _émigrés_ and placed seals upon his property.

   “The committee decreed that since the Citizen Beaumarchais was on
   a mission he should not be treated as an _émigré_, because he was
   absent on a mission for the government. The department removed
   the seals.

   “Some time after, the citizen Beaumarchais was replaced on the
   list of _émigrés_. There had been no new motive. The mission was
   not finished, his negotiations continued to be useful, he had not
   been recalled.... However, they persisted in considering him an
   _émigré_!... the presence of citizen Beaumarchais in a foreign
   country was necessary up to the moment when the secret of his
   mission having been divulged, the English carried off the guns
   from the armory at Tervère to their ports, which they did last
   year.

   “Nothing would then have prevented citizen Beaumarchais from
   returning to France because he could no longer hope to be able
   to fulfil his mission; but his name still rested on the list of
   _émigrés_ and he could not return until it was erased.

   “It was an injustice ever to have placed it upon the list of
   _émigrés_, since he was absent for the service of the Republic.

                                                  “Robert Lindet.”

   “To the Minister of Police.”


This letter and the ardent solicitations of the wife and friends of the
proscribed man, finally induced the committee to have his name erased
from the list of _émigrés_, and so after three years of absence the
author of the _Mariage de Figaro_ was able to return to his native land.



CHAPTER XXVI


“_Qu’étais’je donc? Je n’étais que moi, et moi tel que je suis resté,
libre au milieu des fers, serein dans les plus grands dangers, faisant
tête a tous les orages, menant les affaires d’une main et la guerre de
l’autre, paresseux comme un âne et travaillant toujours, en butte à
mille calomnies, mais, heureux dans mon intérieur, n’ayant jamais été
d’aucune coterie, ni litéraire, ni politique, ni mystique, n’ayant fait
de cour à personne, et partout repoussé de tous.... C’est le mystère de
ma vie, en vain j’essaie de le résoudre._”


   Beaumarchais After His Return from Exile—Takes Up All His
     Business Activities—Marriage of Eugénie—Her Portrait Drawn by
     Julie—Beaumarchais’s Varied Interests—Correspondence with
     Bonaparte—Pleads for Lafayette Imprisoned—Death of
     Beaumarchais—Conclusion.


“On his return to Paris, July 5th, 1796, Beaumarchais,” says Loménie,
“found himself faced with a fortune ruined, not alone as so many others
had been in the general crisis, but still more, by the confiscation of
his revenues, the disappearance of his papers, and of the debts owing to
him. His beautiful house was going to destruction, his garden torn up.
While on one hand his debtors had disembarrassed themselves of their
obligations by settling with the state in paper money, his creditors
were waiting to seize him by the throat. He had accounts to give to, and
to demand of the State, who, after confiscating his fortune, held still
745,000 francs deposited by him when he undertook the mission to secure
the 60,000 guns....”

Not to go into all the perplexing details of the decisions and counter
decisions rendered by the State, the anxieties, the almost insuperable
difficulties that surrounded him on every side, let it suffice to say
that with old age advancing apace, he still retained almost the same
vigor, the same tenacity of purpose, the same indefatigable energy that
have characterized him through life. Without ceasing, he drew up
memoirs, conferred with the ministers, worked day and night to
re-establish his fortune, so that those dear to him might not be left in
want.

That he eventually succeeded in this may be judged by the fact that his
family continued to inhabit their splendid residence until 1818, when
the French government under the Restoration bought it for purposes of
public utility. Moreover, the report rendered after his death by his
bookkeeper, shows that the fortune which he was able to will his family
rose very near the million mark, and this, not counting the debts owing
him and lawsuits still pending, notably that with the United States.

But at the moment of his return to France it was not simply with his
shattered fortune that Beaumarchais’s mind was occupied. During their
sojourn at Havre in 1792, the wife and daughter of Beaumarchais had made
the acquaintance, says Bonneville, “of a young man of distinguished
family, Louis André Toussaint Delarue, whose sister, a woman of
remarkable intelligence, had married M. Mathias Dumas, a soldier with a
very great future, who, after having taken part brilliantly in the war
of American Independence as aide-de-camp of Rochambeau, was now Adjutant
General of the Army under the orders of Lafayette, and had attached to
him his young brother-in-law as _officier d’ordonnance_.... In 1792
they all found themselves waiting in Havre for an opportunity to escape
into England.”

It was there that M. Delarue met Mlle. Eugénie.... The two young people
coming together under these unusual circumstances soon learned to love
one another. His determination to obtain her hand in marriage was not at
all affected by the fact that at that moment the entire possessions of
her father were lost. Beaumarchais on his return to France, touched by
so much constancy and devotion, hastened to assure the happiness of the
young people. “Five days after my arrival,” he wrote to a friend, “I
made him the beautiful present.... They will at least have bread, but
that is all, unless America discharges her debt to me, after twenty
years of ingratitude.”

They were married June 15th, 1796, Eugénie being nineteen, and her
husband twenty-eight years of age. On the eve of her marriage, the Aunt
Julie sketches for a friend the portrait of the young girl, in which she
shows her as one in every way worthy of her father’s affection—and with
a character which, while indicating many contradictory possibilities,
had, nevertheless, great charm and lovableness as well as intellectual
force. It shows, too, that the terrible experiences through which she
had passed, had left their trace upon her. Time, however, softened this
very complex and somewhat formal young lady. “Dying in 1820 the daughter
of the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_,” says Loménie, “left in the
hearts of all who knew her, the memory of a person of charming vivacity,
of _finesse_ and goodness; loving and cultivating the arts with passion,
an excellent musician, woman of the world, and at the same time an
accomplished mother.”

The young man whom she married proved himself in every way worthy of
her. In 1789 he was aide-de-camp of General Lafayette, and later held
honorable official positions under the empire, the Restoration, and the
government of July. In 1840 he was made _maréchal de camp de la garde
nationiale_, which post he held until 1848 when he resigned, at the age
of eighty-four years. “In 1854,” writes Loménie, “he still lives,
surrounded in his flourishing old age by the respectful affection of all
those who know how to appreciate the noble qualities of his heart and
his character.”

But to return to Beaumarchais; hardly had he found himself reunited to
his family than he wrote to his faithful Gudin, bidding him return. The
Revolution, however, had left this good man so destitute that he was
obliged to request a loan in order to make the journey. This was at once
promised. He wrote, August 26, 1796, “I start as soon as I shall have
received the ten louis.... My whole heart glows at the thought of
finding myself again under the roof with your happy family. And Oh, I
shall see you again! How I regret that aerostatic machines are not
already perfected.... But any conveyance is good, if it only conducts me
to you. Adieu my good friend; keep well. I will write you the moment of
my setting out.”

Of their meeting, he writes later, “I came from the depths of my retreat
to embrace my friend. Meeting after so many years, after so many
atrocious events, was it not to be saved from the dangers of shipwreck
and to find ourselves upon the rocks? It was in a way like escaping from
the tomb, to embrace each other among the dead, after an unhoped for
resurrection.”

Beaumarchais’s activities of this period continued to be the most
varied. He entered with interest into the changing fortunes of the
republic—which he accepted and over whose future he tried at times to
become enthusiastic. In March, 1797, he had written to a friend:

   “Yesterday’s dinner, my dear Charles, is one that will long
   remain in my memory because of the precious choice of _convives_
   which our friend Dumas [General Mathieu-Dumas, brother-in-law of
   M. Delarue] had assembled at the house of his brother. On former
   occasions when I dined with the great ones of the State, I have
   been shocked at the assemblage of so many whose birth alone
   allowed them to be admitted. _Des sots de qualité, des imbéciles
   en place, des hommes vains de leurs richesses, des jeunes
   impudents, des coquettes_, etc. If it was not the ark of Noah, it
   was at least the court of the _Roi Petaut_; but yesterday out of
   twenty-four persons at table, there was not one whose great
   personal merit would not have given him a right to his place. It
   was, I might say, an excellent _extrait_ of the French Republic,
   and I, who sat silent, regarding them, applied to each the great
   merit which distinguished him. Here are their names:” And then,
   after making the inventory, he terminates thus:

   “The dinner was instructive, in no way noisy, very agreeable, in
   a word such as I do not remember to have ever before experienced.

                                             “Caron Beaumarchais.”

“Four months later,” says Loménie, “_un coup d’état_ had proscribed
nearly every one of those twenty-four _convives_.”

“The deputies of the people,” says Gudin, “were taken from their sacred
seats, locked up in portable cages like wild beasts, tossed on board
vessels and transported to Guyan.” This _coup d’état_ cooled very
considerably the republican ardor of Beaumarchais; “He was totally at a
loss,” continues Gudin, “to understand either the men or their doings;
he failed to comprehend anything relative to the forms or the means
employed in those times without rule or principle. He called upon
reason, which had helped him triumph so many times; reason had become a
stranger, she was, if we dare say it, a species of _émigrée_ whose name
rendered suspicious anyone who invoqued her.”

But though Beaumarchais was forced to leave the political revolution to
take its course without attempting to change it, his mind ever alert,
found innumerable points of contact with the age in which he lived.
“Although afflicted with almost complete deafness we see him,” says
Loménie, “rising above his personal preoccupations and the sorrows that
assailed him, to apply his mind with the whole force of his
indefatigable ardor to questions of public utility, to literary affairs,
and a thousand other incidents foreign to his own interests. Now he
points out with indignation, in the journals of the times, the
unbelievable negligence which permits the body of Turenne, rescued from
the vandalism of the Terror, to remain forgotten and exposed among
skeletons of animals in the _Jardin des Plantes_, until he finally
brings about a decree of the Directory which puts an end to this
scandal; again he writes letters and memoirs upon all subjects of public
interest ... now to the government, now to such deputies as Baudin des
Ardennes, who represent ideas of moderation and legality.

“He bestirred himself for the agents of rapid locomotion, aided Mr.
Scott in the development of aerostatic machines; celebrated in verse a
motor called the _velocifère_, talked literature and the theatre with
amiable Collin d’Harleville, or pleaded still with the Minister of the
Interior for the rights of dramatic authors against the actors, ... and
occupied himself at the same time with having his drama _La Mère
Coupable_ brought again before the public.”

This drama which had been written immediately preceding the outbreak of
the Revolution, had been read and accepted by the Théâtre Français in
1791, but following this, Beaumarchais had been chosen by the Assembly
of Dramatic Authors to represent their interests before the _corps
législatif_, which was about to pronounce judgment, and he had acquitted
himself with so much ardor that a rupture had followed between himself
and the Théâtre Français. Another troupe of the neighborhood demanded
the play with so much insistence that he allowed them to produce it upon
their new theatre; here it was performed for the first time in June,
1792. But the piece was so poorly played that its success was
indifferent. During the time of the Revolution its performance was not
to be thought of, but it will not be considered surprising that one of
Beaumarchais’s first concerns, after the settlement of the most pressing
of his family affairs, was to have the piece brought again before the
public and played at the Comédie Française. This was effected in May,
1797. Its complete success brought a great happiness to his declining
years.

The characters of _La Mère Coupable_ are the same as those of _Le
Barbier_, and _Le Mariage de Figaro_—although from a literary
point-of-view it is very far from rivaling the two earlier productions,
“the subject,” says Loménie, “taken in itself, is at the same time, very
dramatic and of an incontestable morality.”

Among the numerous letters, written or received by Beaumarchais in
regard to this drama, is one addressed by him to the widow of the last
of the Stuarts, the Countess of Albany, who happening to be in Paris in
1791 had begged Beaumarchais to give a reading of _La Mère Coupable_, in
her salon. He replied:

                                       “Paris, 5th February, 1791.

   “Madame la Comtesse:

   “Since you insist absolutely upon hearing my very severe work, I
   cannot refuse you. But observe that when I wish to laugh, it is
   _aux éclats_; if I must weep, it is _aux sanglots_. I know
   nothing between but _l’ennui_. Admit then, anyone you wish
   Tuesday, only keep away those whose hearts are hard, whose souls
   are dried, and who feel pity for the sorrows that we find so
   delicious.... Have a few tender women, some men for whom the
   heart is not a chimera, and who are not ashamed to weep. I
   promise you that painful pleasure, and am with respect, Madame la
   Comtesse, etc.,

                                                   “Beaumarchais.”

But from his own interests let us turn with him again to those of
national importance.

“As ardent an imagination as that of Beaumarchais,” says Loménie, “could
not be expected to remain a stranger to the universal enthusiasm which
in 1797 was inspired by the youthful conqueror of Italy.”

Through the intervention of the General Desaix, Beaumarchais who had
celebrated in prose and verse the movements of the young conqueror
across the Alps, was able to address a letter to him directly, to which
he received the following concise reply:

   “Paris, the 11 _germinal_ An VI, March, 1798.

   “General Desaix has handed me, citizen, your amiable letter of
   the 25 _ventose_. I thank you for it. I shall seize with
   pleasure, any circumstance which presents itself, to form the
   acquaintance of the author of _La Mère Coupable_.

   “I salute you,

                                                      “Bonaparte.”

“Thus,” says Loménie, “for the General Bonaparte, Beaumarchais is above
all else, the author of _La Mère Coupable_. Can this be an indication of
a literary preference for this drama, or a certain political repugnance
for the _Mariage de Figaro_, or simply the result of the fact that _La
Mère Coupable_ had recently been placed upon the stage? This is a
question that seems difficult to answer.

“I find,” continues Loménie, “among the papers confided to me by the
family of Beaumarchais, another letter of Bonaparte, at that time first
Consul, addressed to Mme. de Beaumarchais after the death of her
husband, which is a reply to a petition. It reads:

   “Paris, _vendémiaire_ An IX.

   “Madame:

   “I have received your letter. I will bring into this matter all
   the interest which the memory of a justly celebrated man merits,
   and that yourself inspires.

                                                      “Bonaparte.”

In one of the _mauvais vers_ (from a literary viewpoint) with which
Beaumarchais in his old age commented upon the career of the great
general, is one which, says Loménie, “honors his sensibility.” It was
written in 1797, and runs thus:

   “Young Bonaparte, from victory to victory,
   Thou givest us peace, and our hearts are moved;
   But dost thou wish to conquer every form of glory?
   Then think of our prisoners of l’Olmutz.”

The allusion in the verse was to Lafayette and his fellow-prisoners, who
for five years had been detained, first in a prison in Prussia, and
later in the Austrian fortress of Olmutz. In 1792, Lafayette had been
declared a traitor by the National Assembly after the fateful tenth of
August, and been forced to cross the frontier and give himself up to the
Austrians, who were then fighting against France. He was held as a
prisoner of State. His wife and family, having been unable to secure his
release, were permitted to share his captivity with him. Napoleon, who
never had entertained a very high opinion of the military capacity of
Lafayette, nevertheless stipulated for his release and for that of his
fellow-prisoners in the treaty of Campo Formio, which was signed during
the year 1797.

But to return to the private life of Beaumarchais. Gudin, after visiting
his friend, had not consented to remain under his roof, feeling that now
he would be a burden and so had returned to his country retreat to await
events. It was there that he learned of the joy that was about to crown
the old age of his friend. He wrote to Beaumarchais:

“I remember the songs you made for Eugénie, when you cradled her on your
knees, and it seems to me that I can hear you sing others for her child.
Kiss her for me, my dear friend, compliment her for me, and all of you
rejoice over your domestic happiness; it is the sweetest of all, the
most real perhaps.”

For Beaumarchais, this was indeed the crowning blessing of this life. On
January 5th, 1798, Madame Delarue gave birth to a daughter, Palmyr, as
they called her. This event caused her grandfather to give way to
“transports of joy,” though at first his only thought was “for his
beloved Eugénie.”

With the reëstablishment of Beaumarchais’s fortune, Gudin, who had in
the meantime settled his own affairs, returned to live with his friend.

“I came again,” he says, “to my native city, delighted to see my friend,
and to find his family augmented. We tasted the sweetness of friendship
the most intimate. I saw him abandon himself in our conversations to the
most vivid hope for the prosperity of the state and of our arms.

“Beaumarchais, at this time, was full of force and of health. Never were
his days devoured by so many plans, projects, labors and enterprises....
His age allowed us to hope that we might retain him a long while.

“We had spent the day together in the midst of his family, with one of
his oldest friends. He had been very gay and had recalled in the
conversation several events of his youth, which he recounted with a
charming complacency.... I did not leave him until ten o’clock; he
retired at eleven, after embracing his wife. She was slightly
indisposed; he recommended her to take some precautions for her
health,—his own seemed perfect. He went to bed as usual, and wakened
early. He went to sleep again and wakened no more. He was found next
morning in the same attitude in which he placed himself on going to
bed.”

An attack of _apoplexie foudroyante_ had carried him off at the age of
sixty-seven years and three months. This was on the 18th of May, 1799.

The suddenness of the death of Beaumarchais caused, as may be imagined,
the most profound sorrow to his family and friends.

Madame de Beaumarchais wrote a few days after his death:

“Our loss is irreparable. The companion of twenty-five years of my life
has disappeared, leaving me only useless regrets, a frightful solicitude
and memories that nothing can efface.... He forgave easily, he willingly
forgot injuries.... He was a good father, zealous friend, defender of
the absent who were attacked before him. Superior to petty jealousies,
so common among men of letters, he counselled, encouraged all, and aided
them with his purse and his advice.

“To the philosophic eye, his end should be regarded as a favor. He left
this life, or rather, it left him, without struggle, without pain, or
any of those rendings inevitable in the frightful separation from all
those dear to him. He went out of life as unconsciously as he entered
it.”

“The inventory,” says Gudin in his narrative, “which is made at a man’s
death, often reveals the secrets of his life. That of Beaumarchais
showed us that to succor families in distress, artists, men of letters,
men of quality, he had advanced more than 900,000 francs without hope
that these sums ever should be repaid. If one adds to these, sums that
he had lavished without leaving the least trace, one would be convinced
that he had expended more than 2,000,000 in benevolences.”

The mortal remains of Beaumarchais were laid to rest in a sombre avenue
of his garden which he himself had prepared. “In planting his garden,”
says Gudin, “he had consecrated a spot for his eternal rest.... It was
there that we placed him. It was there that his son-in-law, his
relatives, his friends, a few men of letters, paid him their last
respects, and that Colin d’Harleville read a discourse which I had
composed in the overflowing of my sorrow, but which I was not in a
condition to pronounce.”

“A beautiful copy of the Fighting Gladiator,” says Lintilhac, “decorated
the entrance to the ostentatious mansion where camped _la vieillesse
militante_ of Beaumarchais. The posture of the combat, like the face of
the gladiator, betrayed a manly agony. What expressive symbol of his
life and work!”

In pausing now to cast a backward glance over the achievements of this
one man, we scarcely can fail to admit with Lintilhac that Beaumarchais
was not boasting when he wrote toward the end of his life: “I am the
only Frenchman, perhaps, who never has demanded anything of anyone, and
nevertheless, among my great labors, I count with pride, to have
contributed more than any other European towards rendering America
free.”

That he ever looked upon his work in the cause of American Independence,
as his strongest claim to immortality among men, can be judged from his
constant return to the subject and especially from what he says in his
memoir of self-justification delivered before the Commune of Paris in
September, 1789. (Given in Chapter XI.) It may be said that the very
persistence of his reclamations in this regard was responsible for the
indifference with which they were universally received. A man so rich,
so happy, so prosperous, so gay, so universally successful in all his
undertakings, could not expect to be taken seriously when he loudly
decried the universal ingratitude of mankind, even though his
accusations might be just. What Beaumarchais essentially lacked, as La
Harpe has pointed out, was above everything else, _measure_ and _good
taste_. He was too ostentatious, too expansive, talked too much of
himself, pushed himself forward with too much noise, was too brilliant,
too daring, too successful; and yet, as M. de Loménie has said in the
remarkable résumé of the character of Beaumarchais given at the end of
his work: “It does not seem to us possible to contest the fact that
Beaumarchais is one of those men who gains the most by being seen at
close range and that he is worth infinitely more than his reputation.”
And the same author continues:

“Beaumarchais had implacable enemies; but one very important point is to
be noted, namely that all those who attacked him with fury either knew
him very little, or did not know him at all; while those who lived
intimately with him loved him passionately. All the literary men who
knew him in life, and who spoke of him after his death, have spoken
with affection and esteem. Two minds as different as those of La Harpe
and Arnault meet, in regard to him, with the same expressions of
sympathy, and I have not found a trace in all the papers left after his
death of a single man who, after knowing him intimately, became his
enemy. On the contrary, I constantly have found testimonials of
attachment that are far from common. I have found that friendships,
begun in his youth, when he was a simple watchmaker, or _contrôleur_ of
the house of the king, follow him for thirty or forty years without ever
changing or weakening, but on the contrary, redouble in intensity and
manifest themselves in the greatest tenderness, and in the most
disinterested ways....

“The goodness of the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_, extended not
only to those about him. Gudin affirms that M. Goëzman fallen into
misery was succored by him; that Baculard was on his register for 3,600
frs. which were never returned.

“A charming trait of his character often has been remarked, in relation
to the inscription engraved upon the collar of his little dog, which was
as follows:—‘I am Mlle. Follette; Beaumarchais belongs to me. We live on
the Boulevard.’

“We can therefore say with La Harpe and Arnault who knew him, that
although the author of the _Mariage de Figaro_, was followed all his
life by black calumnies, he resembled in nothing the portrait which his
enemies have left us of him. It is true that his good qualities are
often somewhat veiled by _légèreté d’esprit_ and _défaut de tenue_. His
friend d’Atilly painted him to nature, when he said, ‘_he has the heart
of an honest man_, but he often has _the tone of a bohemian_.’ The
frivolity of the century in which he lived had too much colored his
ideas ... and indeed equitably to judge the character of the man in its
entirety, one must not forget either the situation in which he found
himself, or the century in which he lived.”

Louis de Loménie wrote in 1854, more than half a century after the death
of Beaumarchais. Since the appearance of his work, many others have
taken up the pen to discuss the pros and cons of this many-sided
character. The last of these, M. Eugène Lintilhac, calls attention to
the crowd of obliges from the scepter to the shepherd’s crook. “What man
in need,” he says, “great lord or modest author, ever came and knocked
at his door, without carrying away consolation in words and species? To
how many oppressed, mulattos, slaves, Jews, protestants has he not held
the hand?”

Sainte-Beuve says somewhere, that the Society of Dramatic Authors should
never assemble without saluting the bust of Beaumarchais. It can do so
henceforward because they have placed in the hall where their meetings
are held, a marble bust of its founder.

On the one hundredth anniversary of the first production of the _Mariage
de Figaro_, on April 27, 1884, the play was performed again at the
Théâtre Français. At the close of the performance the bust of
Beaumarchais was brought forward, and crowned while Coquelin recited
verses to his praise written for the occasion by M. Paul Delair.

Thus to have survived a veritable death from oblivion, and to have come
after a century of neglect into a resurrection of honor and fame, is
sufficient proof of the real greatness of the literary genius of
Beaumarchais to convince all unbelievers. This has been the act of
reparation accorded him by France. The debt of gratitude owed him by
America is still unpaid. It remains to be seen whether the same
resurrection of honor awaits him among us.

This book is a first attempt to state fully the facts of the life of
Beaumarchais for the American people, so that they may know the man who
was their friend, even before they came into existence as a nation, and
it is put out in the hope that they may share the sentiment renewed in
M. Eugène Lintilhac and so forcibly expressed by Gudin—“I soon found
that I could not love him moderately when I came to know him in his
home.”

And so with this expression of a friend’s esteem, let us leave
Beaumarchais in company with his faithful Gudin, Gudin, “whose great
work,” says Lintilhac, “_the History of France_, still sleeps in the
_Bibliotèque Nationale_, ... but whose author has found a surer path to
glory in taking the first place in the cortège of his illustrious
friend,—Beaumarchais.”

Although America has been slow to recognize the claims of Beaumarchais
to her gratitude, yet Time, the great leveler, is restoring all things
to their place; and to-day, if our “friend” is cognizant of what history
is doing, he realizes that this same United States, which his services
did so much to found, is repaying this debt with interest so far as
money goes, but still more with warm affection and heartiest friendship
cemented by the life blood of both nations—and to-day he repeats what he
wrote in December, 1779—

   “As for me, whose interests lose themselves before such grand
   interests; I, private individual, but good Frenchman, and sincere
   friend of the brave people who have just conquered their liberty;
   if one is astonished that my feeble voice should have mingled
   with the mouths of thunder which plead this great cause, I will
   reply that one is always strong enough when one has right on his
   side....

   “I have had great losses. They have rendered my labors less
   fruitful than I hoped for my independent friends, but as it is
   less by my success than by my efforts that I should be judged, I
   still dare to pretend to the noble reward which I promised
   myself; the esteem of three great nations; France, America, and
   even England.

                                          “Caron de Beaumarchais.”



BIBLIOGRAPHY


   _Beaumarchais et son Temps par Louis de Loménie_, Paris, 1850.
      Translated by H. S. Edwards. N. Y. 1857

   _Histoire de Beaumarchais, Gudin de la Brenellerie._ Edited by
      Maurice Tourneux, 1888

   _Œuvres Complètes, précédées d’une notice sur sa vie et ses
      ouvrages par Saint Marc Gerardin_, 1828, 6 tomes

   _Nouvelle Edition Augmentée de quatre pièces de Théâtre et des
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      Fournier, ornée de vingt portraits, etc._ 1876

   H. Doniol—_Histoire de la Participation de la France dans
      l’établissement des Etats-Unis_, 5 tomes. Paris, 1886-1892

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      histoire de son esprit, etc._ Paris, 1887

   _Beaumarchais the Merchant._ Hon. John Bigelow in _Hours at
      Home_, June 1870

   _Marie Thérèse Amélie Caron de Beaumarchais d’après sa
      correspondence inédite par Bonneville de Marsangy_, 1890

   _Bibliographic des œuvres de Beaumarchais._ H. Cordier, 1883

   _Beaumarchais: eine Biographie._ A. Bettleheim, 1886

   _Mémoires sur le Chevalier d’Eon, suivis de douze lettres
      inédites de Beaumarchais._ F. Gaillardet, 1866

   _New Material for the History of the American Revolution._ J.
   Durand, 1889

   _Diplomatic Correspondence._ Francis Wharton

   _Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution._ J.
      Sparks, 1829-1830

   _Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin._ James Parton, 1864

   _Deane Papers_, (6 vols.). 1887

   _A Vindication of Arthur Lee, designed as a refutation of the
      charges found in the writings of Benjamin Franklin, as exhibited
      by Jared Sparks_, etc. 1894

   _Beaumarchais: étude par P. Bonnefon_, 1887

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   _Mémoires de Beaumarchais. Nouveile édition, précédée d’une
      appréciation tirée des Causeries du Lundi par M. Sainte-Beuve_,
      1878

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   1799-1803

   _A History of England, in the 18th Century._ By W. E. H. Lecky (4
      Vols.) 1887

   _Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay_, 1890-93

   _Judgement—qu’approuve le nouvel échappement de montres du Sieur
      Caron_, 1754

   _Claims of the Heirs of Beaumarchais Against the United States._
      House Documents

   _Report of the Committee of Claims on the Petition of the Heirs
      of Beaumarchais._ 1812-1817

   _Le Barbier de Séville._ 1902. 20th Century Text-Books

   _Life of F. W. von Steuben_, with an Introduction by George
      Bancroft, 1859, by F. Kapp

   _Beaumarchais._ Vortrag von Dr. S. Born, 1881

   _Beaumarchais._ A. Hallays, 1897

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   _Les Femmes de la cour de Louis XV._ 1876. Imbert de St. Amand

   _Les beaux jours de Marie Antoinette_, Imbert de St. Amand

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      Association of Boston and Cambridge, 1887, by Charles Islam

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      Charlemagne Tower, 1895

   _The American Revolution._ 2 vols. John Fiske, 1891

   _House Documents_, Vol. 9. Report 111. Fifteenth Congress, First
      Session.



INDEX


   Aix,
     Beaumarchais doubles fine imposed on him at, ii. 174
     lawsuit in progress at, ii. 173
     recommendations for, ii. 65

   Alfort,
     professional school at, i. 45

   Alliance,
     open, between America and France, ii. 153

   Ambassador,
     English, complains to Vergennes, ii. 120
     first French, sent to America, ii. 190, 193

   America,
     Cause of, aided by Beaumarchais’s financial training
       under Du Verney, ii. 78
     love of, by French, ii. 35
     wild sweet charm of, for Frenchmen, ii. 35

   Americans,
     addressed by Beaumarchais from Hamburg, ii. 263
     distrusted motives of French, ii. 34
     eulogized by Beaumarchais, ii. 43
     looked on French as natural enemies, ii. 34

   America’s,
     “friend,” final word of, ii. 288, 289

   Ammunition,
     from France, i. 31

   Amphitrite,
     again sets sail, ii. 131
     cargo of, taken by Beaumarchais, ii. 172
     errors found in bills of lading of, ii. 155
     indiscretion of officers, ii. 136
     put in command of Captain, ii. 120
     returns to port, ii. 119
     sets sail, ii. 116
     the vessel of Beaumarchais, ii. 107

   Angellucci, Guillaume,
     author of libel, gives written agreement, i. 258

   Archbishop of Lyon,
     adopts idea of Beaumarchais, ii. 227

   Archives, Secret,
     edited by H. Doniol, i. 36

   Armament,
     goes out to America, ii. 192

   Arnault, M.,
     Memoirs of, ii. 230, 241

   Arnold, Benedict, i. 32
     gave costly dinners, ii. 194
     put in command at Phila, ii. 194
     Tory principles fixed, ii. 194

   Artois, Comte d’,
     comes to Grennevillier, ii. 216
     takes part of Figaro, i. 284

   August 10th,
     mob enters house of Beaumarchais, ii. 255

   Austria, Empress of,
     sends diamond ring to Beaumarchais, i. 266
     Beaumarchais demands audience with, i. 262


   _Barbier de Séville, Le_,
     author of, demands settlement, i. 282
     brilliant preface to, i. 275
     first performance a failure, i. 273
     first prohibition to produce, i. 272
     last play staged at Le Petit-Trianon, i. 285
     permission granted to perform, i. 273
     second performance of, great success, i. 274
     story of, i. 276

   Baron von Steuben,
     at Valley Forge, i. 32
     invoked by Beaumarchais, ii. 247

   Barry, Mme. du, i. 249
     libel against, destroyed, i. 253
     sustains Maupeou, i. 175

   Bastille, ii. 214
     opposite house of Beaumarchais, ii. 241

   Beaumarchais, Caron de, i. 35
     activity of, i. 287
     addresses daring memoir to King, ii. 46ff.
     addresses President of Congress, ii. 203
     again faces bankruptcy, ii. 239
     anxiety for health of father, i. 99
     appeals to La Borde, i. 243
     appeals to ministers, ii. 258
     arrives in Paris, ii. 77
     arrives in Vienna, i. 262
     attempts to buy guns, ii. 254
     avenges his sister, i. 88ff.
     begs M. de Sartine to intercede,
     begs to read his play to Mesdames, i. 151
     buried in garden, ii. 284
     bust of, crowned, ii. 287
     buys titles of nobility, i. 71
     carried in triumph, ii. 101
     charity of, arouses enmity, ii. 228
     claims of the heirs of, i. 40
     commissioned to settle affairs of D’Eon, ii. 18
     compared to Grandison, i. 143
     compared with Figaro, i. 270
     composes popular song, i. 267
     composes song on return from Vienna, i. 268
     confers with ministers on problems of finance, ii. 111
     confined in l’Abbaye, ii. 257
     consulted by ministers, i. 254
     dares accuse King of false sensibility, ii. 49
     death of, ii. 283
     déblâmé, ii. 100
     defends ancestors, i. 237
     defends himself, i. 221
     demands account from actors, i. 282
     demands aid for America, ii. 58
     demands a new censor of his M. de F., ii. 218
     demands return of thirty-five louis, i. 75
     demands settlement, i. 293
     destroys libel against Mme. du Barry, i. 253
     destroys libel directed against Queen, i. 256
     determines to visit Empress of Austria, i. 260
     difficulties of his position, i. 66
     directs ministers in regard to recall of Deane, ii. 187f.
     disavows du Coudray, ii. 120
     discloses plans of secret aid to Lee, ii. 57
     distaste for gambling, i. 74
     dog, little, of, ii. 286
     duel forced upon him, i. 63
     enters Secret Service, i. 249
     excuses violence of D’Eon, ii. 26
     faces bankruptcy, ii. 137
     faces ruin, ii. 151ff.
     fantastic letter of, to Congress, ii. 92ff.
     freed by Manuel, ii. 257
     gains lawsuit at Aix, ii. 174
     gay life at Madrid, i. 100ff.
     generosity of, i. 81, ii. 284
     gives Comedians lesson in accounts, i. 295
     goes to Spain, i. 84
     home life of, recounted by Gudin, i. 72
     honorable position at court, i. 105
     honored by invitation to Petit-Trianon theatricals, i. 283, ii. 232
     humbles himself, i. 199
     impatient at delays, ii. 112
     imprisoned at St. Lazare, ii. 229
     indiscretion of, ii. 115
     induces Steuben to go to America, ii. 140, 141
     infatuated with Lee, ii. 57
     inflamed for cause of liberty, ii. 22
     initiated into finance, i. 71
     invites authors to dinner, i. 299
     jealousies aroused against, i. 304ff.
     judged by parliament Maupeou, ii. 100
     lawsuit with Comte de le Blache, i. 167
     learns he is set aside in aiding America, ii. 149
     letter to de Francy, ii. 159ff.
     letter to Dubourg, ii. 86
     life of, by E. Lintilhac, i. 126
     loudly reclaims the fifteen louis, i. 208
     made gifts of first two dramas, i. 292
     meets Gudin, i. 170
     meets her who becomes his third wife, i. 245
     meets Madame Lévêque, i. 156
     meets Pauline, i. 108
     memoirs of, criticised by Lintilhac, i. 215ff.
     memoirs to King regarding America, ii. 38
     merchant, the, i. 36
     more attractive than other men, i. 179
     music master to Mesdames, i. 59
     nephew of, recommended to care of Congress, ii. 110
     objection to card playing, i. 100
     pays tuition of pupil, ii. 248
     plans to go himself to Santo Domingo, i. 115
     plays _comédie_ on stage of life, i. 260
     plea of self justification, ii. 243ff.
     pleads for Lafayette imprisoned, ii. 281
     preparations for voyage to Spain, i. 85ff.
     prepares to leave London, ii. 73
     private character, i. 172
     private life, ii. 240ff.
     proudly reclaims rights, i. 200
     reads _Le Barbier_ to friends, i. 189
     receives written order from King, i. 257
     recommends Deane be escorted by fleet, ii. 188
     replies to Mlle. Ninon, ii. 181
     replies to Lord Rochford, ii. 63, 64
     reposes full confidence in Deane, ii. 89
     restored to his rights as Citizen, ii. 100
     retires to Flanders, i. 243
     returns from exile, ii. 273
     returns from Spain, i. 103
     saved by Mesdames, i. 64
     saved by Vergennes, ii. 152
     second wife dies, i. 162
     secret missions of, i. 249
     seeks safety from mob, ii. 254
     sends in his _règlement de comptes_ with Pauline, i. 137
     sends “ostensible” letter to Vergennes, ii. 41
     sends uncle to Santo Domingo, i. 109
     sent to For-l’Evêque, i. 191
     serious side of education of, i. 144
     serves himself through the Ministers, ii. 98, 99
     starts for London, i. 252, ii. 44
     still pleads for aid to be sent to America, ii. 67
     still used by Ministers, ii. 143ff.
     stops at Nuremberg, i. 260
     tact of, with royal pupils, i. 60
     takes Gudin from Temple, ii. 178
     thrown into prison, i. 264
     touched by child’s letter, answers, i. 202
     unites family, i. 83
     unable to obtain explanation, ii. 202
     uncle dies at Santo Domingo, i. 114
     uses attitude of English Lord to gain end, i. 257
     victimized by widow of father, i. 247
     warns ministers of English spies, ii. 132
     writes angry letter to Janot de Miron, i. 117, 118
     writes de Francy, ii. 157
     writes for the _Morning Chronicle_, ii. 73
     writes to Vergennes regarding America, ii. 31

   Beaumarchais, Julie de,
     accuses brother of levity, i. 121
     after the terror, ii. 265ff.
     as authoress, i. 79
     attacked by Goëzman, i. 236
     describes family love making, i. 115
     literary aptitudes of, i. 236
     maliciousness of, i. 131
     writes tenderly to brother, i. 128

   Beaumarchais, Madame de, i. 36, ii. 240
     beauty of, ii. 247
     imprisoned at Port-Royal, ii. 262
     protests decree of Revolutionary Tribunal, ii. 258

   Bertrand, le grand, i. 236
     attacks Beaumarchais, i. 227

   Bigelow, Hon. John, i. 36
     comments on letter of de Francy, ii. 168
     defends memory of Beaumarchais, ii. 138

   Blache, Comte de la, i. 165
     appeals to the parliament Maupeou, i. 177
     brought Beaumarchais before tribunal at Aix, ii. 173
     contests settlement, i. 167
     lawsuit of, ii. 101

   Boisgarnier, Jeanne Marguerite de, i. 79
     courted by Janot de Miron, i. 116
     death of, i. 235
     marries J. de M., i. 124
     plays charades of her brother, i. 142

   Bon Secours,
     Mlle. Eugénie attends convent of, ii. 248

   Bonvouloir,
     instructions to, i. 30, ii. 37

   Brenellerie, Gudin de la,
     _Historie de Beaumarchais_, i. 36

   Breteuil, M. de,
     memoirs to, ii. 218

   Buchot,
     gives out receipt of Beaumarchais for 1,000,000 livres, ii. 204

   Burgoyne,
     entrapped at Saratoga, i. 32
     news of surrender of, reaches England, ii. 147
     surrender of, ii. 145


   Caillard,
     invents calumnies against Beaumarchais, i. 167
     supports the parliament Maupeou, i. 176

   Calumny,
     as described by Basil, i. 278

   Campo Formio,
     treaty of, ii. 282

   Canada,
     “_le point jaloux_,” ii. 37

   Cape Henry,
     Battle of, i. 33

   Carmichaël, Wm., ii. 161
     returns to America, ii. 196
     writes to Beaumarchais, ii. 196

   Caron, André-Charles, i. 45

   Caron, le père,
     courts Madame Henry, i. 122, 123
     death of, i. 247
     devotion to son, i. 82
     letter of, i. 46ff.
     marries second time, i. 124
     marries third time, i. 246
     meets the Princesses, i. 61
     retires from business, i. 78

   Caron, Marie Louise,
     settles in Spain, i. 80

   Caron, Pierre-August,
     assumes name of Beaumarchais, i. 59
     becomes inmate of palace of Versailles, i. 58
     born, i. 43
     _contrôleur clerc d’office_, i. 57
     devotes himself to study, i. 57
     escapades of i. 45
     _horloger du roi_, i. 53
     invention crowned by Academy, i. 52
     marries widow, i. 58
     “_Maudite musique_” denounced by father, i. 48
     petitions Royal Academy of Sciences, i. 51
     wife of, dies, i. 58
     writes _Le Mercure_, i. 49

   Chamfort,
     accepts invitation of Beaumarchais, i. 303

   Charles I. of England,
     judicial murder of, i. 161

   Chartres, duc de,
     honors Beaumarchais, i. 242

   Chaulnes, duc de,
     determines to kill Beaumarchais, i. 183
     goes to Louvre to find Beaumarchais, i. 185
     sent to Vincennes prison, i. 190
     strange character of, i. 179

   Chevalier du S., i. 115, 129
     carries off Pauline, i. 136

   Chenu, the commissioner,
     arrests the duc de Chaulnes, i. 188
     carries out order of King, ii. 230

   Chevalier D’Eon,
     abuses Beaumarchais, ii. 26
     agent of Louis XV., ii. 14
     declares himself a woman, ii. 19
     disguised as woman in St. Petersburg, ii. 15
     exiled to London, ii. 14
     reasons for change of sex of, ii. 19

   Chinon,
     The forest of, i. 159

   Clavico, Joseph, i. 217
     adventures with, i. 91ff.
     immolated by Goethe, i. 96
     signs declaration, i. 93
     successes of i. 96

   Clôture, compliment de, i. 279ff.

   Colin d’Harleville,
     reads discourse over grave of Beaumarchais, ii. 284

   Collé,
     replies to Beaumarchais, i. 301, 302

   Colonists,
     forbidden to extend settlements, i. 27
     had no sympathy with the French, i. 29
     turn to France, i. 29

   Comédie des Italiens,
     refuses the _Barbier_, i. 173

   Comédie française,
     refused to permit singing, i. 279

   Comedy,
     morality of, i. 146
     the serious, i. 145

   _Compte rendu_,
     of Beaumarchais, i. 292

   Condé, Prince of,
     dispute with Beaumarchais, i. 107

   Congress,
     Continental, devoid of power, i. 28
     debt of, to Beaumarchais fixed by Deane, ii. 199
     disavows all commissions of Deane, ii. 135
     draws up contract with agent of Beaumarchais, ii. 163ff.
     holds aloft famous receipt, ii. 205
     ignores letter of Deane, ii. 193
     parties of, reversed, ii. 236
     petitioned again and again by French Government, ii. 205
     sent Barclay to revise account of Beaumarchais, ii. 200
     strange silence of, ii. 202
     urged to admit claim, ii. 208

   Constant, _le petit_,
     writes to Beaumarchais in prison, i. 201

   Conti, Prince de,
     honors Beaumarchais, i. 242

   Cordilières,
     convent of, i. 192

   Cornwallis,
     defeat of, i. 33

   Cotignac,
     amusing story of, i. 65

   Coudray, Tronson du,
     at Metz, ii. 106
     fascinates Deane and Beaumarchais, ii. 107
     gives pretext of bad weather, ii. 119
     good officer, ii. 121
     issues pamphlet against Deane and Beaumarchais, ii. 122
     openly thwarts plans of Deane and Beaumarchais, ii. 115
     placed in command of Amphitrite, ii. 115
     unworthy of confidence, ii. 107

   Counter order revoked, ii. 119


   Dauphin, i. 60

   Deane, Silas, i. 37
     accompanied by first French Ambassador to America, ii. 190
     addresses Beaumarchais, ii. 191
     addresses letter to Congress, ii. 193
     associated with Arnold, ii. 194
     changes date of contract with Lafayette, ii. 134
     commended by King, ii. 190
     commended by Vergennes, ii. 190
     communicates fears to Beaumarchais, ii. 187
     compact between Beaumarchais and, ii. 90, 91
     defended by Franklin, ii. 186
     defended by John Jay, ii. 186
     difficult situation of, ii. 171
     embarrassing position of, ii. 118
     given portrait of King, ii. 189
     guest of French Admiral, ii. 193
     insists on meeting French Minister, ii. 84
     a loyal patriot, ii. 195
     manly firmness of, ii. 132
     meets Beaumarchais, ii. 87
     meets Lafayette with Von Kalb, ii. 134
     no traitor, ii. 195
     papers of, ii. 187
     receives news of his recall, ii. 187
     reluctantly signs recommendation of Du Coudray, ii. 121
     returns to France, ii. 199
     sent by Franklin to Dubourg, ii. 83
     sent to Paris, i. 31
     signs contract with Lafayette and Von Kalb, ii. 134
     starts for France, ii. 69
     writes to Congress, ii. 92

   Delarue, Louis-André-Toussaint,
     meets family of Beaumarchais, ii, 274

   Delarue, Mme.
     gives birth to daughter, ii. 282

   Des Epinières,
     Beaumarchais demands he return to post, ii. 131
     commended by Gen. Sullivan, ii. 197
     nephew of Beaumarchais, i. 80
     nephew of Beaumarchais goes to America with Steuben, ii. 142
     writes to uncle, ii, 142

   Diderot,
     founder of new literary School, i. 148
     replies to Beaumarchais, i. 302, 303

   Doligny, Mlle.,
     created rôle of Rosine, i. 279
     letter of, i. 290

   Doniol, II.
     monumental work of, ii. 32

   Dorat, M., i. 299

   Dramatic authors,
     rights of, i. 288
     rights of, recognized by Napoleon, i. 307

   Dubourg, Barbeu,
     discredits Beaumarchais with Franklin, ii. 85
     friend of Franklin, ii. 83
     greets Franklin, ii. 117
     officious zeal of, ii. 105
     tries to discredit Beaumarchais with Vergennes, ii. 84

   Duras, M. le Maréchal de,
     confers with Beaumarchais, i. 298

   Du Verney, Paris,
     dies, i. 163
     tutelage of Beaumarchais under, of use in cause of America, ii. 78


   England,
     difficulties of recruiting in, ii. 38
     parties in, ii. 33

   Estaing, Admiral D’,
     commandeers _Le Fier Roderigue_, ii. 234
     writes to Beaumarchais, ii. 235

   _Eugénie_,
     _La vertue malheureuse_, i. 149ff.
     success in England, i. 149

   Eugénie, Mlle.,
     daughter of Beaumarchais, i. 246
     marries M. Delarue, ii. 275
     returns home, ii. 249
     sent to convent school, ii. 248
     suitors of, ii. 250
     writes to her father, ii. 262


   Ferrers, Lord,
     friend of Chev. D’Eon, ii. 25

   Figaro,
     creation of, i. 147, 269
     creation of, ranks Beaumarchais with Molière, ii. 223
     first conception of, i. 271

   Flanders,
     Beaumarchais retires to, i. 243

   Follette, Mlle.,
     little dog of B., ii. 286

   For-l’Evêque,
     Beaumarchais sent to, i. 191

   France,
     aid to America openly avowed, i. 33
     attitude of, towards America, ii. 35
     betrayed, i. 29
     disclaims Canada, ii. 37
     important rôle played by, i. 33
     no intention of claiming part of New World, i. 30
     still demurs, ii. 45

   Francis, Cape,
     base of mercantile operations with America, ii. 80

   Francy, Theveneau de,
     gives impressions, ii. 167ff.
     letter to, ii, 132
     reports on conditions in America, ii. 156
     sets out for America, ii. 154
     writes Beaumarchais of Deane’s recall, ii. 156

   Franklin, Benjamin,
     arrives in France, i. 116
     at Versailles, i. 32
     defends Deane in letter to Congress, ii. 186
     idol of Paris, ii. 119
     intentionally arouses suspicions of French Government, ii. 133
     overlooks a million, ii. 201
     won over by du Coudray, ii. 121
     steadily refuses to treat with Beaumarchais, ii. 142
     writes Dubourg, ii. 117

   French,
     generosity of, ii. 35
     loved America, ii. 35
     motives of, distrusted by Americans, ii. 34

   Fronsac, duc de,
     wishes to hear _Le Mariage de Figaro_, ii. 216


   Gaillardet,
     life of Chev. D’Eon, ii. 16

   Garrick,
     adapts _Eugénie_ to English audience, i. 149

   Gates, Horatio, i. 32
     Congress in favor of, to replace Washington, ii. 193

   George III.,
     appealed to by Louis XV., i. 251

   Gérard, de Rayneval,
     accompanies Deane, ii. 190
     First French Ambassador to America, ii. 195

   Goethe,
     reads memoirs of Beaumarchais, i. 231
     writes drama _Clavico_, i. 231

   Goëzman, Counsellor,
     accuses Beaumarchais of attempt at corruption, i. 209
     aided by Beaumarchais, ii. 286
     attacks Julie, i. 236
     presided over the parliament Maupeou, i. 177

   Goëzman, Madame,
     confrontation of, with Beaumarchais, i. 223ff.
     demands two hundred louis, i. 204
     demands fifteen louis for the secretary, i. 206
     memoir of, i. 222
     refuses to return the fifteen louis, i. 207

   Government,
     English, redoubles watchfulness, ii. 117
     of France, embarrassed by presence
     of Franklin, ii. 116
     of France, slow to move, ii. 36

   Grand, M.,
     Banker in Paris, ii. 146

   Grasse, Comte de,
     off Cape Henry, i. 33

   Grennevilliers,
     festival of, ii. 216

   Gudin de la Brenellerie,
     accused of writing memoirs of Beaumarchais, i. 219
     alone in house of Beaumarchais, ii. 257
     gives account of triumph of Beaumarchais, ii. 174
     goes to live with Beaumarchais, ii. 241
     meets Beaumarchais, i. 170
     returns to join friend, ii. 276
     seeks refuge in _le Temple_, ii. 176
     seized by the duc de Chaulnes, i. 184

   Guerchy, Comte de,
     quarrel with D’Eon, ii. 14, 23

   Guilbert, Marie-Joseph,
     settles in Spain, i. 80


   Hamburg,
     Beaumarchais at, ii. 260

   Hamilton, Alex.,
     revises account of Beaumarchais with Congress, ii. 204

   Havre,
     Beaumarchais goes to, ii. 115
     family seeks safety at, ii. 251

   Heirs of Beaumarchais,
     claims of, settled, ii. 211

   Héloise, La Nouvelle, ii. 179

   Hessians,
     hired to fight Americans, ii. 38
     start for America, ii. 64

   Hinterland, i. 27

   Holland,
     engaged by Beaumarchais to unite with Spain and France, ii. 32


   Independence,
     American, Beaumarchais intervenes in cause of, i. 250
     declared by Congress, ii. 126
     war of America, important rôle of Beaumarchais in, i. 267

   _Institut de bienfaisance_, ii. 227

   Institute for Nursing Mothers, ii. 228


   Jay, John,
     correspondence of, ii. 111
     defends Deane, ii. 186
     writes Beaumarchais, ii. 236

   Jefferson,
     sends letter to Beaumarchais, ii. 245


   Kaunitz, Chancellor, i. 264
     suspicions of, i. 266


   La Borde,
     aids Beaumarchais, i. 243

   Lafayette, Marquis de, i. 37
     about to sail on Beaumarchais’s vessel, ii. 134
     dinner at Metz, ii. 133
     forced to borrow from Beaumarchais, ii. 162
     pleads for Beaumarchais imprisoned, ii. 229
     returns borrowed money with interest, ii. 247
     sets sail for America, ii. 134

   La Harpe,
     comments on du Verney, i. 69
     defends character of Beaumarchais, i. 219
     eulogizes Beaumarchais, i. 213
     eulogizes memoirs of Beaumarchais, i. 238
     final characterization of Beaumarchais, ii. 285
     invitation of Beaumarchais accepted by, i. 301
     refuses invitation to dine with authors, i. 299

   Lamballe, Princess de,
     invites Beaumarchais, ii. 214

   _La Mère Coupable_,
     first played, ii. 278

   Lawsuit,
     against Comedians, i. 287
     of the fifteen louis, a master stroke, i. 214

   Lee, Arthur,
     added to commission in France, ii. 117
     comes to Paris, ii. 89
     condemned at bar of history, ii. 195
     connections with Beaumarchais broken, ii. 88
     denounces Deane and Beaumarchais to Congress, ii. 88
     distrusted by Vergennes, ii. 185
     effects of letter of, to Congress, ii. 108
     enraged against Deane and Beaumarchais, ii. 88
     in London, ii. 57
     jealous of Deane, ii. 185
     meets Beaumarchais, ii. 56
     not permitted to come to France, ii. 66
     poisoned Congress against Deane, ii. 186
     revises account of Beaumarchais, ii. 203
     summoned to join Deane and Franklin, ii. 117
     Vergennes refuses to see, ii. 89
     writes to Congress, misrepresenting action of French
       Government, ii. 68

   Lebrun,
     gives passport to Beaumarchais, ii. 258

   _Le Mariage de Figaro_, i. 39

   Lepaute,
     plagiarism of, detected, i. 52
     watchmaker to the Luxembourg, i. 51

   Lepin, Françoise,
     sister of Beaumarchais, i. 180

   Lenormant d’Etioles,
     festival given by, i. 268
     gives festival, i. 142
     second marriage of, i. 201

   _Les deux Amis_, i. 157

   _Le Temple_,
     chosen as refuge by Gudin, ii. 177
     prison of, ii. 232

   _Lettres de Cachet_,
     Beaumarchais a victim of, i. 190

   Libel,
     against Mme. du Barry destroyed, i. 253
     against Queen destroyed, i. 256

   Lindet, Robert,
     makes appeal for Beaumarchais, ii. 270

   Lintilhac, Eugène,
     _Beaumarchais et ses œuvres_, i. 36

   Living,
     high cost of, after the terror, ii. 266ff.

   Loménie, Louis de,
     _Life and Times of Beaumarchais_, i. 36

   Louis XV., i. 56, ii. 14
     death of, i. 253
     dies, i. 242
     _le grand projet de_, ii. 18
     occult diplomacy of, i. 249
     parliament of, destroyed by fifteen louis, i. 231

   Louis XVI.,
     ascends throne, i. 254
     hesitates, ii. 32
     inflicts outrage without motive on Beaumarchais, ii. 230
     refuses to commit himself regarding aid to America, ii. 53
     replies in own hand writing to questions of Beaumarchais, ii. 52f.
     seeks to undo wrong done Beaumarchais, ii. 231
     won over to American cause, ii. 70


   _Mariage de Figaro, Le_, i. 39
     Beaumarchais composes, ii. 212
     Monologue of, ii. 223
     permission given to play, ii. 215
     permission revoked, ii. 215
     proceeds go to charity, ii. 226
     returns from, ii. 226
     story of, ii. 221

   Marie-Antoinette,
     attacked in libel, i. 256
     in the Temple, ii. 232
     protectress of Beaumarchais, i. 267
     takes the part of Rosine, i. 283

   Marie-Thérèse, Empress of Austria,
     receives Beaumarchais, i. 263

   Marmontel, i. 173

   Maupeou,
     Chancellor, dissolves parliaments, i. 174
     the parliament, i. 174
     the parliament, abolished, i. 254
     the parliament, Beaumarchais called before, i. 177
     the parliament, judges Beaumarchais, i. 240
     the parliament, sentence of, annulled, ii. 100
     the parliament, supported by Voltaire, i. 219

   Maurepas, le Comte de,
     Beaumarchais works for, ii. 113
     Beaumarchais addresses memoir to, ii. 127ff.
     promises letters-patent, ii. 96
     uses Beaumarchais as political agent, ii. 111

   Meinières, Madame de,
     enchanted by memoirs of Beaumarchais, i. 232f.
     compares Beaumarchais to Demosthenes, Cicero, etc., i. 233

   Memoir,
     Beaumarchais addresses new, to King, ii. 42ff.

   Memoirs of Beaumarchais
     praised by Mme. de Meinières, i. 232f.
     read by Goethe, i. 230
     read by Voltaire, i. 219
     read in Philadelphia, i. 231

   _Mémoire justicative de Beaumarchais_, ii. 237f.

   Ménard, Mlle, de,
     _femme d’esprit_, i. 173
     painted by Greuze, i. 179
     takes refuge in convent, i. 191

   Mercantile project outlined to King by Beaumarchais, ii. 78ff.

   Mesdames, i. 59ff., 84, 151

   Metz,
     famous dinner at, i. 35

   Meudon, i. 63

   Miron, Janot de,
     aids in writing memoirs, i. 236
     marries Mlle. Boisgarnier, i. 120
     writes Beaumarchais, i. 116

   Morande, Theveneau de, French libelist, i. 251

   Morris, Robert, i. 39


   Napoleon,
     characterizes house of Beaumarchais, ii. 241
     recognizes rights of dramatic authors, i. 307
     writes Beaumarchais, ii. 280

   New York,
     fall of, effect in Paris, ii. 113

   Nivernais, duc de,
     suggests change in _Eugénie_, i. 152

   Nuremberg, i. 260
     Burgomaster of, i. 261


   Opposition, The,
     in England, favors Insurgents, ii. 34


   Paris du Verney,
     early life, i. 69
     founds Ecole Militaire, i. 67
     notices Beaumarchais, i. 68

   Parliaments,
     reëstablished, i. 242

   Passy,
     deputies at, thwart Beaumarchais, ii. 157
     deputies at, uncomfortable position of, ii. 158
     Franklin takes up quarters at, ii. 118

   Pauline,
     charming Creole, i. 108
     fortune of, i. 109
     marries the Chevalier du S., i. 140

   People,
     English, respect of, for law, i. 252
     of France, enthusiastically greet Franklin, ii. 116
     the, of France, support Beaumarchais, i. 214

   Philadelphia,
     evacuated by British, ii. 193

   Philadelphian,
     reads memoirs of Beaumarchais, i. 231

   Poland,
     division of, declared iniquitous by Beaumarchais, ii. 49

   Polignac, Mme. la duchesse de,
     hears _Le Mariage de Figaro_, ii. 216

   Pompadour, Madame de, i. 53

   Port-Libre,
     family of Beaumarchais imprisoned at, ii. 262


   Receipt, Famous,
     for “lost million,” ii. 82

   Rochambeau, Comte de,
     at Yorktown, i. 33

   Rochford, Lord,
     aids Beaumarchais to gain ends, i. 257
     complains to Beaumarchais, ii. 62
     friendship for Beaumarchais, i. 101
     intimate with Beaumarchais, ii. 56
     King bids Beaumarchais encourage friendship of, ii. 66

   Roderigue Hortalès et Cie,
     assumed name, ii. 79
     commercial house of, ii. 77

   _Roderigue, Le Fier_,
     takes part in Battle of Granada, ii, 234
     vessel of Beaumarchais, ii. 161

   Ronac,
     assumed name of Beaumarchais, i. 261

   “_Ronde_,”
     of Beaumarchais, ii. 250

   Roosevelt, Theodore,
     erects Statue to Rochambeau, i. 34

   Rousseau, J. J.,
     effect of teaching of, shown in letter, ii. 179
     reads the memoirs of Beaumarchais, i. 219

   Russia,
     Crown Prince of, supporter of _Le Mariage de Figaro_, ii. 215


   Saint-Amand, Imbert de,
     account of _Le Mariage de Figaro_ given by, ii. 224ff.
     _Le Barbier de Séville_ given at Le Petit-Trianon, i. 285
     Recounts reception of Franklin, ii. 118f.

   St. Antoine,
     hotel Boulevard, i. 240

   Sainte-Beuve, M. de,
     eulogizes Beaumarchais, i. 230
     invocation of Beaumarchais, i. 229
     gives honor to memory of Beaumarchais, i. 289

   St. Petersburg, ii. 15
     50 representations given in, of _Barbier de Séville_, i. 275

   Saratoga,
     Arnold wounded at, ii. 194
     mock hero of, i. 32
     victory of, news of, reaches Paris, ii. 145
     victory of, turning point of war, i. 31

   Sartine, M. de,
     appealed to by Beaumarchais, i. 255
     explains imprisonment, i. 266
     friendly to Beaumarchais, i. 197
     grants permission to play _Le Barbier_, i. 272
     intercedes for Beaumarchais i. 211
     Lieutenant General of police, i. 177
     secures written order for Beaumarchais from King, i. 257

   Sauvigny, M., i. 299

   School for Rakes,
     adapted from _Eugénie_ of Beaumarchais, i. 149

   Seals,
     placed on house of Beaumarchais, ii. 258

   Secret aid,
     impossible to avow, ii. 201

   Sedaine, i. 173
     correspondence with Beaumarchais, i. 305, 306

   Shippen, Miss Margaret,
     belle of Philadelphia, ii. 194

   Spain, i. 80, 84
     Beaumarchais’s intimacy at Court of, aids in affairs
       with America, ii. 78
     engaged by Beaumarchais to aid America, ii. 32
     preparing to aid America, ii. 109
     urged to join France in war on England, ii. 137

   Steuben, Baron von, i. 38
     called on by Beaumarchais, ii. 247
     life of, by Kaft, ii. 139
     sees deputies at Passy, ii. 140
     takes des Epinières to America as aid, ii. 142
     urged to lend services to America, ii. 137, 138
     visits Paris, ii. 139

   Sully,
     Beaumarchais recommends prudent measures of, ii. 127, 128

   Terror,
     Reign of, i. 246

   Théâtre Français,
     Comedians of, refuse account, i. 293

   Toryism,
     rampant in Philadelphia, ii. 193

   Tourneux, Maurice,
     Edits life of Beaumarchais by Gudin, i. 36

   Trianon, _Le Petit_, i. 283

   Tucker, Mr.,
     of Virginia, address of, in favor of Beaumarchais, ii. 209


   Valley Forge,
     Winter at, i. 32

   Vallière, duc de la, i. 105, 200

   Vaudreuil, M. de,
     at Grennevilliers, ii. 218
     thanks Beaumarchais, ii. 219

   Venice,
     enthusiasm for _Eugénie_, i. 150

   Vergennes, Comte de,
     addresses Beaumarchais like an Ambassador, ii. 65
     aids Beaumarchais, ii. 125
     approves change of costume of D’Eon, ii. 23
     augments credits of Beaumarchais, ii. 85
     Chevalier D’Eon demands ransom from, ii. 17
     discountenances Dubourg, ii. 84
     finally overcomes scruples of King, ii. 54
     praises Beaumarchais, ii. 29
     replies to Beaumarchais, ii. 124
     speaks at last, ii. 69

   Versailles,
     Beaumarchais reappears at, i. 252
     court of, i. 32

   _Victoire, La_,
     vessel bought by Lafayette, ii. 134

   Voltaire,
     eulogizes the memoirs of Beaumarchais, i. 215

   Vrillière, duc de la,
     keeps Beaumarchais in prison, i. 197
     releases Beaumarchais, i. 212


   War declared on England, ii. 233

   Washington, George,
     at Valley Forge, i. 32

   Wilkes, Lord Mayor,
     insolence of, ii. 38
     members of opposition, meet at home of, ii. 56



STUDIES IN AMERICAN HISTORY


   BEAUMARCHAIS, AND THE WAR OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE. Two volumes.
   Illustrated. _By Elizabeth S. Kite._

   THE POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE PUBLIC LANDS, FROM 1840 TO 1862.
   FROM PRE-EMPTION TO HOMESTEAD. _By George M. Stephenson._

   GEORGIA AS A PROPRIETARY PROVINCE—THE EXECUTION OF A TRUST. _By
   James Ross McCain._

   LINCOLN, THE POLITICIAN. _By T. Aaron Levy._

   THE AGRICULTURAL PAPERS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. _Edited by Walter
   Edwin Brooke, Ph.B._


RICHARD G. BADGER, PUBLISHER, BOSTON





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