My Dear Father
I received your letter on my return from Versailles, where I had gone to see our dear deputies. From day to day I grow more contented with the choice of my cousin Deviefville. He is an excellent citizen and a true patriot; it is not his fault that we are not living in the best of all possible worlds.
Valeant cives mei; sint incolumes, sint florentes, sint beati, stet patria mihi carissima, quoquo modo merita de me erit.
This greatness of spirit touched me beyond expressing.
These trips to Versailles have cost me a lot of money because I go and dine with our deputies from Dauphiné and Brittany; they all recognise me as a patriot and they all show me flattering attentions. The third estate hopes for nothing from the nobility and the clergy. If the clergy had joined with them it would have been accomplished last Thursday, when Target, at the head of a deputation, made a speech to them which reduced many people almost to tears. He begged them, by all that he held most sacred, to give in to the general assembly. The priests, moved by his supplication, cried out four times ‘put it to the vote, to the vote’ but the president would not allow a vote, and the bishops, seeing the clear majority against them, made strenuous efforts to put the decision off until the next day. From here, for fifteen days a schism broke out, the third estate declared themselves the nation; this caused consternation among many deputies, not all the provinces are as full of patriots as le Dauphiné, Brittany and the province of Paris. Civil war could soon break out.
The abbé whose name you could not decipher is the author of a book which has been reprinted three times: What is the third estate?’ Abbé Sieyes; it is pronounced Syess.
I am currently writing a patriotic work [La France Libre] The pleasure I have in hearing, in the club and certain cafes, the admirable plans of our zealous citizens, captivates me.
I have left this letter on the desk, still hoping to send you the response of M Brulé and M Jorand. A week has passed. Tomorrow, Sunday, I return to Versailles. I go to incite and be incited. We are going to enter a great week. The events in Brittany have filled our deputies with great courage. There are thirty thousand young people, signed up and ready to support the cause which their representatives defend at Versailles. The Bretons are provisionally carrying out some of the articles in their books [cahier de doléances]. They are killing the pigeons and game. Fifty young people came to do the same thing here, almost a collapse in the [number of?] hares and rabbits without example. It is said that they killed four to five thousand game animals in the Saint Germain plain, before the eyes of the guards, who dared do nothing about it.
With the exception of Target, I have over praised the Paris delegation. Lots of people who hear me speak are surprised that I have not been nominated as a deputy. The States General has drawn to Paris a crowd of foreigners and Frenchmen from all the provinces. The town is as full as an egg, Versailles the same. It is certain that they are holding a conference of aristocrats in the home of a prince, where they will make a confederation between the nobility and the parliamentarians; an impotent confederation, if the news is true that Brittany and some other provinces, full of cockades, are not openly hostile but nonetheless threatening and that we have an army of observers.
My very dear father, you have no idea of the joy our regeneration gives me. Liberty is a beautiful thing; Cato would rip out his entrails rather than accept a master. But alas! I should like very much to regenerate myself, and I still find the same weaknesses in myself, shall I tell you – the same vices. At least not loving my father is not among them, I wish you a long life and all sorts of prosperity. There are some patriots here who have offered to take me to Brittany with them. Have you news of my brother? He is on that side. Do you speak to him about events of the moment? Or is he only occupied with the Estates General?
My very dear father, I have the honour to be your very humble and very obedient son