The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


We have had, in this city, a very considerable riot, in which about one hundred people have been probably killed. It was the most unprovoked, and is, therefore, justly, the most unpitied catastrophe of that kind I ever knew. Nor did the wretches know what they wanted, except to do mischief. It seems to have had no particular connection with the great national question now in agitation. The want of bread is very seriously dreaded through the whole kingdom. Between twenty and thirty ship loads of wheat and flour has already arrived from the United States, and there will be about the same quantity of rice sent from Charleston to this country directly, of which about half has arrived. I presume that between wheat and rice, one hundred ship loads may be counted on in the whole from us. Paris consumes about a ship load a day (say two hundred and fifty tons). The total supply of the West Indies for this year, rests with us, and there is almost a famine in Canada and Nova Scotia. The States General were opened the day before yesterday. Viewing it as an opera, it was imposing; as a scene of business, the King's speech was exactly what it should have been, and very well delivered; not a word of the Chancellor's was heard by anybody, so that, as yet, I have never heard a single guess at what it was about.

The Noblesse, on coming together, show that they are not as much reformed in their principles as we had hoped they would be. In fact, there is real danger of their totally refusing to vote by persons. Some found hopes on the lower clergy, which constitute four-fifths of the deputies of that order. If they do not turn the balance in favor of the Tiers Ltat, there is real danger of a scission. But I shall not consider even that event as rendering things desperate. If the King will do business with the Tiers Etat, which constitutes the nation, it may be well done without Priests or Nobles.

to William Carmichael, 8 May 1789