No. 77.
Mr. Washburne to Mr. Fish.

No. 1390.]

Sir: Mr. Monroe was our minister at Paris at one of the most interesting epochs of the French Revolution. He was received by the National Convention of France in full session on the 15th of August, 1794, (28 Thermidor, year II,) which was only about three weeks after the fall of Robespierre, on the 27th of July, 1794, (9 Thermidor, year II.) As this was the first instance in which a minister had been accredited to the French Republic. There was some delay in the “committee of public safety” in regard to the presentation of his letters of credence, caused by the necessity of establishing some general regulation on the subject. The correspondence of Mr. Monroe with his government at this period (including that in regard to his reception) is very interesting, and is found in the first volume of the American State Papers. As nothing appeared there, however, in regard to the proceedings of the Convention on the day of the reception, I took occasion a few days since, at the national archives, to look up the “procès verbal” (journal) of that body on that day. In order to fill the gap, and in the interest of the history of those extraordinary times, I beg to send you a copy which I made myself from the journal, in which I am confident you will find a certain interest.


Extract from the “procès verbal” of the National Convention, of August 15, 1794.

The Citizen James Monroe, minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America near the French Republic, is admitted in the hall of the sitting of the National Convention. He takes his place in the midst of the representatives of the people, and remits to the president, with his letters of credence, a translation of a discourse addressed to the National Convention; it is read by one of the secretaries. The expressions of fraternity, of union, between the two people, and the interest which the people of the United States take in the success of the French Republic are heard with the liveliest sensibility and covered with applause.

Reading is also given to the letters of credence of Citizen Monroe, as well as to those written by the American Congress and by its president, to the National Convention and to the committee of public safety.

In witness of the fraternity which unites the two people, French and American, the president gives the accolade (fraternal embrace) to Citizen Monroe.

Afterward, upon the proposition of many members, the National Convention passes with unanimity the following decree:

Article I.

The reading and verification being had of the powers of Citizen James Monroe, he is recognized and proclaimed minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America near the French Republic.

Article II.

The letters of credence of Citizen James Monroe, minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America, those which he has remitted on the part of the American Congress and of its president, addressed to the National Convention and to the committee of public safety, the discourse of Citizen Monroe, the response of the president of the Convention, shall be printed in the two languages, French and American, and inserted in the bulletin of correspondence.

Article III.

The flags of the United States of America shall be joined to those of France, and displayed in the hall of the sittings of the Convention, in sign of the union and eternal fraternity of the two people.

[Page 130]

You will observe in Article II of the decree that it was ordered that the letters of credence and the discourse of Mr. Monroe and the president of the Convention should be “printed in the two languages, French and American.” The frantic hatred of the revolution toward England at that time would not permit the Convention to recognize our mother tongue as the English language.

The president of the Convention, when Mr. Monroe was received, was Antoine Philippe Merlin, a deputy from the department of the Nord, and a lawyer at Douai, but he was always called and known as “Merlin de Douai” to distinguish him from Antoine Merlin, another deputy from the department of the Moselle, a lawyer at Thionville, who was known as “Merlin de Thionville.” It was, therefore, Merlin de Douai, as president of the convention, who, by its order, gave Mr. Monroe the “accolade.” In my own experience as minister here I have had occasion, in a very subordinate way, to know something of this “accolade.” For many days after I had, by your instructions, recognized the republic, which was proclaimed on the 4th of September, 1870, regiment after regiment of the national guard marched to the legation to make known to our Government, through me, their profound appreciation of its prompt action in recognizing the government of the national defense. Forming on the corner of the rue de Chaillot and the avenue Josephine, they would send up cheers and cries of “Vive la republique,” till I would appear on the balcony to make my acknowledgments. Then some officers of the regiment would be deputed to call upon me in the chambers of the legation to tender me their personal thanks for my agency in the matter of recognition of their new government, and to give me the fraternal embrace, (“accolade,”) which was carried out in letter and spirit, and sometimes much to the amusement of the numerous visitors who were present on the occasion.

I have, &c.,