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Memoir of a Republican Royalist: Gouverneur Morris, Chronicler and Actor of the French Revolution
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Memoir of a Republican Royalist: Gouverneur Morris, Chronicler and Actor of the French Revolution Serge Ricard Abstract: The Paris sojourn of the author of A Diary of the French Revolution is possibly the most fascinating period of his eventful life. As George Washington’s informant and emissary (official and unofficial) in both Paris and London, Gouverneur Morris discreetly contributed to the United States’s policy toward France and England. Upon his arrival in Paris in February 1789, Morris became the privileged witness of the outbreak of the French Revolution, of which he would become an invaluable chronicler and a discreet actor for five years. A self-appointed advisor on revolutionary matters, he would interfere in French politics as a republican royalist of sorts and become the darling of the constitutional noblesse and the Jacobins’ bête noire. From 1792 to 1794, he served as minister plenipotentiary of the United States. As the only foreign diplomat to remain in Paris during the Reign of Terror, Morris judiciously used his astonishing network of personal relationships with the various factions to defend American interests and to help his compatriots involuntarily caught in the maelstrom of sanguinary ideological excesses. This article re-examines Gouverneur Morris’s participation in the second earth-shaking upheaval of the late eighteenth century and ponders the New York revolutionist’s reasons for involvement, as well as the nature and significance of that engagement. Keywords: diplomacy, Early Republic, French Revolution, Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Jefferson, Louis XVI, constitutional monarchy, Reign of Terror, Jacobins Résumé : Le séjour parisien de l’auteur de A Diary of the French Revolution est peut-être la période la plus fascinante de sa vie mouvementée. En tant qu’agent et émissaire (officiel et officieux) de George Washington, il contribua discrètement à la politique américaine à l’égard de la France et de l’Angleterre. À son arrivée à Paris en février 1789, Morris fut le témoin 6 Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue canadienne d’études américaines ahead of print article doi: 10.3138/cras.2016.012 This ahead of print version may differ slightly from the final published version. privilégié du début de la Révolution française dont il allait devenir pendant cinq ans un chroniqueur inestimable et un acteur discret. Conseiller autoproclame ́ en matière de révolution, il s’ingéra en effet dans la politique française comme une sorte de républicain royaliste et devint la coqueluche de la noblesse constitutionnelle et la bête noire des Jacobins. De 1792 à 1794 il servit comme ministre plénipotentiaire des États-Unis. Il resta le seul diplomate étranger en poste à Paris pendant la Terreur et usa judicieusement de son étonnant réseau de relations personnelles avec les diverses factions pour défendre les intérêts américains et aider ses compatriotes pris dans le maelström de débordements idéologiques sanguinaires. Cet essai réexamine la participation de Gouverneur Morris au second séisme politique de la fin du XVIIIe siècle et s’interroge sur les motivations du révolutionnaire new-yorkais ainsi que sur la nature et la signification de son engagement. Mots clés : diplomatie, jeune république, Révolution française, Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Jefferson, Louis XVI, monarchie constitutionnelle, Terreur, jacobins A number of books in the twenty-first century testify to a renewed interest in Gouverneur Morris’ distinguished career and penetrating political thinking. Many scholars, however, continue to ignore him or compare him unfavourably with Thomas Jefferson and minimize, if not belittle, his contribution to early American foreign relations (Miller ix–xiv, 239–243). A talented orator and stylist, a peerless, reform-minded organizer with a brilliant mind, one of the most illustrious Founding Fathers, yet one of the lesser known, Gouverneur Morris (1752–1816), after embracing the cause of American independence, was also the chronicler and actor in France of the second earth-shaking upheaval of the late eighteenth century. Curiously , the New York revolutionist turned advisor and actor when he witnessed the beginning of the French Revolution...


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