To James Madison April 27, 1797

From the original letter at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Harve 6th Florial 5 year


My dear Friend

As the Paris papers and some private letters from thence mention your arrival, I take it for granted, and congratulate you upon it; but at the same time I cannot flatter you with much hopes of success. Mr. Monroe’s departure before your arrival will prevent your being informed of many things that would be convenient to you to know, but this, in a great part, can be supplied by Mr. Skipwith. Individually, as Mr. Madison, you will be welcome; but as the french Government now know that Mr. Monroe was sent with a lie in his mouth, they will suspect that this is a second trick of the same kind, or, what amounts to the same thing, that it is a measure forced by the necessity of circumstances against the grain. I know not what your instructions are, neither would I chuse to know, but if they are the least petulant, and you act upon them, my opinion is they will send you away.

Had you been here thro’ the whole course of affairs you would have seen how unwilling they were that a rupture should appear between the two republics, and how much they hated the idea of it, but that difficulty being once got over, as it now is by the publicity of a rupture, resentment feels a disposition to act without restraint. Had the mercantile wise-acres of America elected Mr. Jefferson, instead of John Adams, it would have carried the appearance that the majority of the Country retained its remembrance of the services it received from France in the American revolution, which was the thing the french Government wished to know, and which it would have been gratifying to her to have been assured of. In that case, matters might have been easily accomodated, and your coming would then have been a consistent thing. But the election of John Adams is for the purpose of supporting the British treaty, and your coming under such circumstance, shews that the American Government is attempting to play contrary games at the same time.

For a long time the American administration seemed to suppose that France must take every thing which that administration pleased to do, and be thankful it was no worse. From treachery it proceeded to insolence, to which the clownish manners of Timothy Pickering is well adapted; for of all the Clowns that ever were entrusted to write public despatches he is the greatest. Had Mr. Monroe followed the course of Timothy’s letters he would have been turned out of the Country long ago.

It was my intention to have set off for America by the Ship Dublin Packet that sailed about three weeks ago for N. York, and I came to Harve for that purpose. But I liked neither the Captain nor the Company, and besides this, the English Cruisers are always at this Port, and as I have lost all Confidence in the American governt, and had none in the Captain, I did not chuse to expose myself to the hazard of being taken out of the Vessel. It is no credit to the American government when a man who has acted towards that Country as I have done, finds himself obliged to say this.

Had I sailed and could I have arrived in America before Congress adjourned, it was my intention to have suggested to some members of the house of representatives to call Mr. Monroe before them to enquire into the state of their Affairs in France, a full explanation of which might have led to some resolutions of that house that might have become the groundwork of compromising the present differences, for the house of representatives is the only part of the American governt that has any reputation in France. Soon after my coming to Havre I heard, by some American Vessels that came in, the probability of your mission to France, and this made me the less anxious to get to America, because it is probable that what I had contemplated to do there might clash with what you were to do here. I wrote however my opinion to Mr. Jefferson and I mentioned it to Mr. Monroe, who expressed a wish that the house of representatives would call him up.

Several important events, such as the unexpected successes in Italy and the breaking of the Bank of England were not, I presume, known in America when you sailed, and the submission of the Emperor would meet you on your arrival. In the disposition that the American administration and the french govern. are in towards each other, those successes will increase the difficulty of a Compromise, for a man must be a blind politician not to see that the American Administration reposed itself upon England. My opinion of the present state of things is that if they make peace with the Emperor, they will march upon Portugal, after which they will bend all their force against England - and talk to America last of all. You see that their plan is to settle matters with only one at a time. By this, they not only break up the present coalition but they break up the System of Coalitions. In this view of the Case, were there a general Peace in Europe, America would not be out of the scrape, and I should not wonder (since the Administration of America, disclaims the Idea of being under any obligation to France for her services in the American War) if France should demand a reimbursement of the expences she was at in that war, and then tell America that she is at full liberty to join which side she pleases or neither. France has now so many great Objects on her hands that America will appear of less consequence to her every day -

You see that I write you my opinion freely, but I have no desire to know yours. If there is any information I can give you you are welcome to it, and as I have yet some friends in America, I shall be glad to hear from you on such matters as you may chuse to write. I am mortified at the fall of the American Character. It was once respectable even to Eminence; now it is despised; and did I not feel my own Character as an Individual, I should blush to call myself a Citizen of America —

My health (no thanks to that Chief of Scoundrels Washington, for he resigned me to the prison and the guillotine) has been improving for some time past, and since I have been at Havre it seems fully reestablished except that the Abscess in my side continues. The present prosperous state of things (America out of the question) serves me as a Physician, and should a revolution begin in England I intend to be among them - The news of Peace is just arrived here —

Your Affectionate friend

Thomas Paine