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ships indeed. They both appeared larger than our frigate, and were already within musket-shot of us. The air was clear, and the moon very bright. We could see everything, even the men on board. We all ex. pected every moment to be hailed, and, possibly, saluted with a broadside. But the two ships passed by us, without speaking a word, and I stood upon deck till they had got so far off as to remove all apprehensions of danger from them. Whether they were two American frigates, which had been about that time in France, we never knew. We had no inclination to inquire about their business or destination, and were very happy that they discovered so little curiosity about ours.
A PLACE FOR KINGS.
Franklin told us one of his characteristic stories. “A Spanish writer of certain visions of Hell, relates that a certain devil, who was civil and well-bred, showed him all the apartments in the place, among others, that of deceased kings. The Spaniard was much pleased at so illustrious a sight, and after viewing them for some time, said he should be glad to see the rest of them. The rest?' said the demon. Here are all the kings that ever reigned upon earth, from the creation of it to this day. What the devil would the man have?' This was not so charitable as Dr. Watts, who, in his View of Heaven, says, 'Here and there I see a king.'” This seems to imply that kings are as good as other men, since it is but here and there that we see a king upon earth.
The truth is, that neither then, nor at any former time, since I had attained any maturity in age, reading, and reflection, had I imbibed any general prejudice against, or in favor of kings. It appeared to me then, as it has done ever since, that there is a state of society in which a republican government is the best, and, in America, the only one which ought to be adopted or thought of, because the morals of the people, and circumstances of the country, not only can bear it, but require it. But, in several of the great nations of Europe, kings appeared to me to be as necessary as any government at all. Nor had I ever seen any reason to believe that kings were, in general, worse than other men
ADAMS AT THE FRENCH COURT.
Went to Versailles, in company with Mr. Lee, Mr. Izard and his lady, Mr. Lloyd and his lady, and Mr. François. Saw the grand procession of the Knights du Saint-Esprit, or du cordon bleu. At nine o'clock at night, went to the grand couvert, and saw the king, queen, and
royal family, at supper; had a fine seat and situation close by the royal family, and had a distinct, and full view, of the royal pair.
Our objects were to see the ceremonies of the knights, and, in the evening, the public supper of the royal family. The kneelings, the bows, and the courtesies of the knights, the dresses and decorations, the king seated on his throne, his investiture of a new created knight with the badges and ornaments of the order, and his majesty's profound and reverential bow before the altar as he retired, were novelties and curiosities to me, but surprised me much less than the patience and perseverance with which they all kneeled, for two hours together, upon the hard marble of which the floor of the chapel was made. The distinction of the blue ribbon was very dearly purchased at the price of enduring this painful operation four times in a year.
The Count de Vergennes confessed to me that he was almost dead with the pain of it. And the only insinuation I ever heard, that the King was in any degree touched by the philosophy of the age, was, that he never discovered so much impatience, under any of the occurrences of his life, as in going through those tedious ceremonies of religion, to which so many hours of his life were condemned by the Catholic Church.
The queen was attended by her ladies to the gallery opposite to the altar, placed in the centre of the seat, and there left alone by the other ladies, who all retired. She was an object too sublime and beautiful for my dull pen to describe. I leave this enterprise to Mr. Burke. But, in his description, there is more of the orator than of the philosopher. Her dress was everything that art and wealth could make it. One of the maids of honor told me she had diamonds upon her person to the value of eighteen millions of livres; and I always thought her majesty much beholden to her dress. Mr. Burke saw her probably but once. I have seen her fifty times perhaps, and in all the varieties of her dresses. She had a fine complexion, indicating perfect health, and was a handsome woman in her face and figure. But I have seen beauties much superior, both in countenance and form, in France, England, and America.
After the ceremonies of this institution are over, there is a collection for the poor; and that this closing scene may be as elegant as any of the former, a young lady of some of the first families in France is appointed to present the box to the knights. Her dress must be as rich and elegant, in proportion, as the queen's, and her air, motions, and courtesies, must have as much dignity and grace as those of the knights. It was a curious entertainment to observe the easy air, the graceful bow, and the conscious dignity of the knight, in presenting his contribution; and the corresponding ease, grace, and dignity of the lady, in receiving it, were not less charming. Every muscle, nerve, and fibre, of both, seemed per
fectly disciplined to perform its functions. The elevation of the arm, the bend of the elbow, and every finger in the hand of the knight, in putting his louis d'ors into the box, appeared to be perfectly studied, because it was perfectly natural. How much devotion there was in all this I know not, but it was a consummate school to teach the rising generation the perfection of the French air, and external politeness and good-breeding. I have seen nothing to be compared to it in any other country.
At nine o'clock we went and saw the king, queen, and royal family, at the grand couvert. Whether M. François, a gentleman who undertook upon this occasion to conduct us, had contrived a plot to gratify the curiosity of the spectators, or whether the royal family had a fancy to see the raw American at their leisure, or whether they were willing to gratify him with a convenient seat, in which he might see all the royal family, and all the splendors of the place, I know not; but the scheme could not have been carried into execution, certainly, without the orders of the king. I was selected, and summoned indeed, from all my company, and ordered to a seat close beside the royal family. The seats on both sides of the hall, arranged like the seats in a theatre, were all full of ladies of the first rank and fashion in the kingdom, and there was no room or place for me but in the midst of them. It was not easy to make room for one more person. However, room was made, and I was situated between two ladies, with rows and ranks of ladies above and below me, and on the right hand and on the left, and ladies only. My dress was a decent French dress, becoming the station I held, but not to be compared with the gold, and diamonds, and embroidery, about me. I could neither speak, nor understand the language in a manner to support a conversation, but I had soon the satisfaction to find it was a silent meeting, and that nobody spoke a word, but the royal family, to each other, and they said very little. The eyes of all the assembly were turned upon me, and I felt sufficiently humble and mortified, for I was not a proper object for the criticisms of such a company. I found myself gazed at, as we in America used to gaze at the sachems who came to make speeches to us in Congress, but I thought it very hard if I could not command as much power of face as one of the chiefs of the Six Nations, and, therefore, determined that I would assume a cheerful countenance, enjoy the scene around me, and observe it as.coolly as an astronomer contemplates the stars. Inscriptions of Fructus Belli were seen on the ceiling and all about the walls of the room, among paintings of the trophies of war, probably done by the order of Louis XIV. who confessed, in his dying hour, as his successor and exemplar Napoleon will probably do, that he had been too fond of war. The king was the royal carver for himself and all his family. His majesty ate like a king, and made a royal sup