To the French National Convention August 7, 1794
From the original letter at the Library of Congress.
If I should not express myself with the energy I used formerly to do, you will attribute it to the very dangerous illness I have suffered in the prison of the Lux — for several days I was insensible of my own existence and tho I am much recovered, it is with exceeding great difficulty that I find power to write you this letter. But before I proceed further, I request the Convention to observe - that this is the first line that has come from me either to the Convention or to any of the Committees, since my imprisonment which is approaching to eight months - Ah, my friends, eight months loss of Liberty seems almost a life time to a man who has been, as I have been, the unceasing defender of Liberty for twenty years.
I have now to inform the Convention of the reason of my not having written before.
It is a year ago that I had strong reason to believe that Robespierre was my inveterate Enemy, as he was the Enemy of every man of virtue & humanity. The address that was sent to the Convention some time about last Augst from Arras (the native town of Rob–) I have always been informed was the work of R– and the partisans he had in the place. The intention of that address was to prepare the way for destroying me by making the people declare (tho without assigning any reason) that I had lost their Confidence. The address, however, failed of success, as it was immediately opposed by a couter address from St. Omer, which declared the direct contrary. But the strange power that Rob-, by the most consummate hypocrisy and the most hardened cruelties, had obtained, rendered, any attempt on my part to obtain justice not only useless but even dangerous, for it is the nature of Tyranny always to strike a deeper blow when any attempt has been made to repel a former one. This being my situation I submitted with patience to the hardness of my fate, and waited the event of brighter days — I hope they are now arrived to the nation and to me.
When I left the united States of America in the year 1787, I promised to all my Friends that I would return to them the next year. But the hope of seeing a revolution happily established in France, that might serve as a model to the rest of Europe, and the earnest and disinterested desire of rendering every service in my power to promote it, induced me to defer my return to that Country, and to the society of my Friends, for more than seven years. This long sacrifice of private tranquillity especially after having gone through the fatigues and dangers of the American Revolution, which continued almost eight years, deserved a better fate than the long imprisonment I have silently suffered — But it is not the nation, but a faction that has done me this injustice, and it is to the national representation that I appeal against that injustice.
Parties and factions, various and numerous as they have been, I have always avoided, my heart was to all France, and the object to which I applied my self was the Constitution. The Plan which I proposed to the Committee, of which I was a member, is now in the hands of Barrere, and it will speak for it self. It is perhaps proper that I inform you of the cause assigned in the order of my imprisonment. It is that I am a Foreigner; where as, the foreigner thus imprisoned was invited into France by a decree of the late national assembly and that in the hour of her greatest danger when invaded by Austrians and Prussians. He was, moreover, a citizen of the United States of America, an ally of France, and not a subject of any country in Europe, and consequently not within the intentions of any of the decrees concerning foreigners - But any excuse can be made to serve the purpose of malignity when it is in power.
I will not intrude on your time by offering any apology for the broken and imperfect manner in which I have expressed myself. I request you to accept it with the sincerity with which it comes from my heart; and I conclude with wishing fraternity and prosperity to France and union and happiness to her Representatives.
Citizens — I have now stated to you my situation, and I can have no doubt but your Justice will restore me to the Liberty of which I have been deprived.
Luxembourg, Thermidor 19th