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title:“John Mason to George Mason”
authors:John Mason
date written:1790-5-11

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:21 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Feb. 23, 2024, 10:19 a.m. UTC

Mason, John. "Letter to George Mason." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 3. Ed. A Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 1193-98. Print.
Recipient's Copy, Mason Family Papers, Library of Congress

John Mason to George Mason (May 11, 1790)

Bordeaux 11th May 1790.
It has been so long since I wrote you that I dont remember exactly by what conveyance. Rather than begin to apologise, which perhaps I could not do fairly, I will only preface by promising to do better. I have the Ship Industry Capt: Conner from Petersburg Virginia in discharge before my door which will return to same place in 15 or 16 days. I have determined, as great Variety & abundance of matter presents itself every day to give you by her Return a Sort of chronological Journal of what is going on which may perhaps afford more Information than what I am ashamed to confess I generally sent you, a hurried Letter written just about the Departure of the Ship when the bustle of closing my Letter of business make me forget one half I might intend to tell you & detail the other half in an unconnected inaccurate Scrawl.
The Ship Industry was loaded at Petersburg Indian Corn & Flour by Mr Thos: Shore (as says his Brother who came over in her) by orders & for acct. of Mr Jno. Bonfield here—when the Invoice & Bill [of] lading were presented him—he refused having anything to say to the Cargoe—alledging that tho' he had given Mr Shore orders— he had no Idea of any Man's being mad enough to execute them at such Prices (by the Inv [oice]s they must sell here to a very great Loss) and that as the Bill of lading was filled only in part to him (it was filled to J. Bonfield & H. S. Shore the Brother now here) it was only conditionally his property & that he was determined not to receive it—it is an ill wind that blows no body good—I have long since heard this Proverb and now I believe it. Mr. Shore brought Recommendations to our house—put the Cargoe into my Hands for Sale—and attacked Mr. B. instantly in the Court of Admiralty to make him receive it—not having any Vouchers with him that orders had been given without Limits to buy such a Cargoe the things stands suspended of Course untill they can be had—in the mean time the Court have authorized me to make the Sales for account of him to whom it shall belong. We expect every hour another large Ship loaded at same Place on same account & exactly in same predicament. I believe Shore will be cast—by the Bill [of] lading—filled to his Brother who as the Bearer of it—&consequently able to pass it to Bonfield or hold it as he might find Markets—this is B's argument— Shore argues it was an allowable caution in Commerce taken by his brother in Case of accidents to B—& executed thro' him coming to Europe on other Views. I have been thus circumstantial as it may make a noise in Virginia—an affair of £5 or £6000 Stg—and [a] nice point in Commerce to decide.
In Bordeaux, hitherto tranquil throughout all the different Stages of the Revolution was yesterday more agitated than I have seen it since the first flame of patriotism in July.
In order to prepare you for what I am going to relate I must tell you that on the 19th April the national assembly passed a Decree that the Legislature ought not, nor could not meddle with the Consciences of men and their religious creed and refused to constitute, at the request of the aristocratic party termed, le cote noir de la salle, the roman catholic Religion—the national & sole [religion] countenanced—this disconcerting much their measures—they held nocturnal assemblies—drew up a form of violent protest against this blaspemous & heretic act as they were pleased to call it signed to the number of two hundred & ninety odd Members of the Clergy & Noblesse & sent it abroad to stirr up the People. Some of them had nigh paid dear for immediately—in coming out of the house several of the dissenting Members were attacked by the People & were rescued with difficulty by the national guard. Five Members from Bordeaux signed this Protestation—three from the Noblesse & two from the Clergy.
A patriotic Club consisting of about three hundred young Men held at, & terming themselves the national Coffee house, did not get this protestation 'till the day before yesterday—when as from their own Registres—"Un membre a demandée le parole & a dit 'Messieurs—voila, la protestation & le nom des deputes a l'assembleé nationale qui l'ont signé[e]—Un Cri d'Indignation general a s'est elevé à la lanterne & a feu." The next morning the 10th it was decreed that five effigies made of Straw & sewed in Canvas representing the five Members from Bordeaux who were so base [as] to sign the Protestation should be hung in due form to five lanterns in the Street chapeau Rouge between the Exchange and the Comedy house—having on both Sides [of] the head written on paper in large legable Characters their Respective names & below them Traitor to his Country—this was executed about 7 o'clock in the Evening amidst many thousand applauding and shouting Spectators. They hung an hour and were then taken down & burnt with their Protestation on a Pile prepared in the middle of the Street for the Purpose. More than once during the Ceremony I heard in different quarters of the Crowd—Je voudrois mieux voir le corps la que non pas de la paille foutre—& had those people unfortunately have been there then they wd. certainly have swung. At Paris a Club termed la cour nationale du patrons royal deliberating on the same business decreed that "que les nommés Virieux, Maury, Cazales, Mirabeau Cadet Despremeriux, Fauccault—les eveques de Nancy, Clermont, d'Aix &c—sont declarés faux & ecervelés—ordonne qu'ils aurónt la teté lavéé & rafraichie dans le bassin des Palais royal; qu'il leur sera donné, a chacun trois douges [douches?] sur l'occiput pendant trois jours consecutifs; & qu'ils seront Prealablement saignés, purgés, & medicamentés & ensuite reclus & enfermés, jusque a la cloture de constitution—fait & juges au palais royal les chambas [chambres?] &caffé habitués assemblés le 4 Mai 1790."
The Members of Nobility who were hung here were distinguished by their parliamentary robes the Clergy by a Cross on their breast & something similar the usual dress of the abbess.
May 12th Something of a much more serious nature seems to be brewing by the news of today. The Courier of Tolouse just arrived brings a confused account from Montaubon—(Montaubon you know is a manufacturing Town between this & Toulouse about 20 leagues up the River from here)—that on the 10th there was a quarrell between the Patriots & Aristocrats that they were armed on both Sides and that many lives were lost that the aristocratic Party had prevailed & that many Protestant Prisoners were taken & thrown immediately into dungeons by the Clergy with whom the new municipality had also sided, that the arms of the Patriots had been locked up in the Hotel de la Ville by them and refused them which exposed them naked to the Party of evil wishers. This is about the Substance of the common Report collected from several confused letters on the Evening of this dreadful day—it makes an amazing ferment here among the People—they cry out on all Sides y irons nous, y irons nous, aidons nous, ces travez comardes; & pendons nous ces gues, ces canailles des municipaux & des moins.
Saturday the 15th at night—Today the Business at Montaubon is confirmed by different Letters—the most circumstantial of which was immediately printed and cried in the Streets—the People impatient and on thorns since Wednesday expecting every Moment a Courier extraordinaire to clear their doubts—became immediately violent—the patriotic Club at the national Coffee house immediately determined that a sufficient force should be dispatched to assist the Patriots of Montaubon—that application shd be made instantly to the Municipality for the Purpose "that every Citizen who would turn out on this occasion & should immediately put on his uniform & tie a white handkerchief round his left arm—as a mark of distinction —and repair to have his name taken down by his Colonel or Major —who are prayed to make returns of the Volunteers thus enrolled before 2 o'clock in the day (this Plan appeared about 9 o'clock in the Morning)—the commanding officers are prayed to provide one waggon & horses for every 60 men who shall be enlisted—furnished with Straw to carry each a Section of twenty men at a time in order to relieve and accelerate the March—every person owning a waggon & team are prayed to hold them in readiness to march on Sunday morning at 4 o'clock—and the Officers are requested to take notes of such as refuse to comply—Gentlemen Merchants & Principals of houses of Commerce are prayed to allow each one of their young Men of the Counting house to make the present Campaign & to continue their wages & reserve their Places during their absence as was practised in the Towns of Brittany when it was necessary to send our Detachment of Patriots—Such Gentlemen who from their occupations may find it inconvenient to march, are prayed to send in the course of the present day to Monsr. Buchatal St. Pierre such Summs as each may think proper to contribute toward defraying the Expence of the proposed Expedition—At five o'clock in Evening all the Patriots who have taken the Handkerchief are prayed to repair in detachments of their respective Corps to the royal Gardens—armed—provided with a Cartouch Box filled with at least twelve Ca[r]tridges & Nap Sac; that they may be reviewed by their General Officers & be told the hour at which they are to march."
Monday the 10th was the day appointed by the Municipality to take an Inventory of the goods of the Clergy in the different Convents—but in order to give you the origin & Cause of this business which may draw after it long & disagreeable Consequences—you must know first that there are a number of disaffected People the mass of the Town being Tradesmen & manufacturers ignorant & little informed of Course had been bought over by their Priests principally at the Confession of Easter to believe that all this change had been worked by the Protestants (there are a number of the better kind of People at Montaubon Protestants) throughout the Kingdom—that a proof of it was they had just attained a Decree to destroy the Catholic Religion & take away their Goods to enrich themselves. By this Sort of argument & others equally stupid & false, joined to the intrigueing of the Nobility among their Dependants—they obtained an Election of the new municipality entirely composed of Nobles, abbes & Avocats. These people once in office began before suspected by ordering all the arms of the national Guard to be deposed in the Hotel de la Ville (of which they kept the Keys). Next there were formed Corps of all the dissafected & bad Citizans, whom at the beginning of the Revolution the national Guard did not chuse to admit among them, under pretence of strengthening the City—between whom & the original Legions there were continual Jealousies, the former constantly protected by the municipality—at length denounced to the national assembly they were by their order suppressed—but no attention was pd. to this Decree by the vile municipals under whom the good People of Montaubon were doomed to groan. The new & disaffected Corps encreased every day—nocturnal assemblies were held every means used to intrigue and deceive the People as their Party grew stronger they became more Public & were at last openly held &convogued [convoked?] by the municipality.
Religion was always the Pretext, danger of the church was constantly preached to the people the tolerating Decree of the 12th of April & that for alienating the Goods of the Clergy were the Instruments with which they worked. Things [had] gone to this length—the true Patriots & good Citizans of Montaubon were truly alarmed—they wrote circulars from the different Corps to the national Guard of neighbouring Towns proposing a general league &close Confederation to assist each other in Case of attack upon either—it was immediately adopted by many, Bordeaux particularly by the unanimous Voice of fifteen thousand Patriotic Volunteers (this is the number embodied here) ratified this solemn compact & swore fidelity & protection to the common cause.
Monday the 10th was then the day when we were to hear all the Discontent & trouble at Montaubon (till then Ænigma,) explained [—]the day on which the good Citizans of that unfortunate Town were doomed Martyr[s] to Liberty. When that Monster Aristocracy, that troubler of public Repose, dared once more to lift his infernal head to arm Citizans against Citizans—& spill the blood of the best Men. Horrid as may ever sound the Relation of this cruel day in the Ears of the lovers of humanity—I am a sufficient believer in the dispositions of Providence to hope it only a small & partial evil to be productive of a great & general good—the death of the innocent & unfortunate Babor at Paris—produced an abolition of the Stigma & Confiscation of Goods to which were subject all families in this Country—of whom any vicious or even innocent Member had been brought to public Justice. Let us then expect that the Murders I am going to tell you of at Montaubon will call forth the Vengeance of the Good People to make such examples of that damnable Party—those execrable monks and cursed nobles—as may deter from attempting any thing farther.
In the morning the municipality repaired to the Convents to take an Inventory of the goods of the Clergy &conform to the Decree of the national assembly—the alarm was given and crowds of Women & low people presented themselves at the doors of the Convents to forbid Entrance to the municipality—who immediately retired without calling in assistance to enforce their authority. The Populace thus collected pressed round the house of the general of the patriotic guard & threaten'd with fire & pillag[e] they meet him & attack him in the Street—he is defended by some Patriots who are about him & saves himself—thus warmed they cry out let us cut the throats of the Protestants—the Patriots fly to the Hotel de la Ville to get their arms—the[y] are refused them by the municipal officers—and are delivered to the furious & ill designing populace, who were by this time around them women &children are seen running up & down the Streets aprons & petticoats filled with Ca[r]tridges distributing [ . . .]

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