To James Monroe October 4, 1794

To James Monroe October 4, 1794

LUXEMBOURG, 14 EM Vendemiaire, old style,


I thank you for your very friendly and affectionate letter of the eighteenth of September which I did not receive till this morning. (1) It has relieved my mind from a load of disquietude. You will easily suppose that if the information I received had been exact, my situation was without hope. I had in that case neither section, department nor country, to reclaim me; but that is not all; I felt a poignancy of grief, in having the least reason to suppose that America had so soon forgotten me who had never forgotten her.

Mr. Labonadaire, in a note of yesterday, directed me to write to the Convention. As I suppose this measure has been taken in concert with you, I have requested him to show you the letter, of which he will make a translation to accompany the original.

(I cannot see what motive can induce them to keep me in prison. It will gratify the English Government and afflict the friends I have in America. The supporters of the system of terror might apprehend that if I was in liberty and in America I should publish the history of their crimes, but the present persons who have overset that immoral system ought to have no such apprehension. On the contrary, they ought to consider me as one of themselves, at least as one of their friends. Had I been an insignificant character I had not been in arrestation. It was the literary and philosophical reputation I had gained in the world that made them my enemies; and I am the victim of the principles and, if I may be permitted to say it, of the talents, that procured me the esteem of America. My character is the secret of my arrestation.)

If the letter I have written be not covered by other authority than my own it will have no effect, for they already know all that I can say. On what ground do they pretend to deprive America of the service of any of her citizens without assigning a cause, or only the flimsy one of my being born in England? Gates, were he here, might be arrested on the same pretense, and he and Burgoyne be confounded together.

It is difficult for me to give an opinion, but among other things that occur to me, I think that if you were to say that, as it will be necessary to you to inform the Government of America of my situation, you require an explanation with the Committee upon that subject; that you are induced to make this proposal not only out of esteem for the character of the person who is the personal object of it, but because you know that his arrestation will distress the Americans, and the more so as it will appear to them to be contrary to their ideas of civil and national justice, it might perhaps have some effect.

If the Committee [of Public Safety] will do nothing, it will be necessary to bring this matter openly before the Convention, for I do most sincerely assure you, from the observations that I hear and I suppose the same are made in other places, that the character of America lies under some reproach.

All the world knows that I have served her, and they see that I am still in prison; and you know that when people can form a conclusion upon a simple fact they trouble not themselves about reasons. I had rather that America cleared herself of all suspicion of ingratitude, though I were to be the victim.

You advise me to have patience, but I am fully persuaded that the longer I continue in prison the more difficult will be my liberation. There are two reasons for this: the one is that the present Committee, by continuing so long my imprisonment, will naturally suppose that my mind will be soured against them, as it was against those who put me in, and they will continue my imprisonment from the same apprehensions as the former Committee did; the other reason is, that it is now about two months since your arrival, and I am still in prison. They will explain this into an indifference upon my fate that will encourage them to continue my imprisonment.

When I hear some people say that it is the Government of America that now keeps me in prison by not reclaiming me, and then pour forth a volley of execrations against her, I know not how to answer them otherwise than by a direct denial which they do not appear to believe.

You will easily conclude that whatever relates to imprisonments and liberations makes a topic of prison conversation; and as I am now the oldest inhabitant within these walls, except two or three, I am often the subject of their remarks, because from the continuance of my imprisonment they augur ill to themselves. You see I write you everything that occurs to me, and I conclude with thanking you again for your very friendly and affectionate letter, and am with great respect

Yours affectionately,


Today is the anniversary of the action of Germantown. Your letter has enabled me to contradict the observations before mentioned.

  1. Monroe's letter was in reply to Paine's Memorial. In his letter, dated September 18th, Monroe wrote: "It is unnecessary for me to tell you how much all your countrymen, I speak of the great mass of the people, are interested in your welfare. . . . You are considered by them, as not only having rendered important services in your own revolution, but as being on a more extensive scale, the friend of h u m a n rights, and a distinguished and able advocate in favor of public liberty. To the welfare of Thomas Paine the Americans are not and cannot be indifferent. To liberate you, will be an object of my endeavors. . . ."-Editor.