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Shelter From The Storm

March 2023
1min read

In 1888 young Theodore Roosevelt published a biography oj Morris, which showed that for all his affairs and shopping expeditions, the statesman had a grim and taxing time during his tenure in Paris. As the richly written passage below suggests, Morris occasionally displayed great courage in the discharge of his duties.

Not the less did [Morris] dare everything, and jeopardize his own life in trying to save some at least among the innocent who had been overthrown in the crash of the common ruin. When on the 10th of August [1792] the whole city lay abject at the mercy of the mob, hunted men and women, bereft of all they had, and fleeing from a terrible death, with no hiding-place, no friend who could shield them, turned in their terror-struck despair to the one man in whose fearlessness and generous gallantry they could trust. The shelter of Morris’s house and flag was sought from early morning till past midnight by people who had nowhere else to go and who felt that within his walls they were sure of at least a brief safety from the maddened savages in the streets. As far as possible they were sent off to places of greater security; but some had to stay with him till the storm lulled for a moment. An American gentleman who was in Paris on that memorable day, after viewing the sack of the Tuileries, thought it right to go to the house of the American minister. He found him surrounded by a score of people, of both sexes, among them the old Count d’Estaing, and other men of note, who had fought side by side with us in our war for independence, and whom now our flag protected in their hour of direst need. Silence reigned, only broken occasionally by the weeping of the women and children. As his visitor was leaving, Morris took him to one side, and told him that he had no doubt there were persons on the watch who would find fault with his conduct as a minister in receiving and protecting these people; that they had come of their own accord, uninvited. “Whether my house will be a protection to them or to me, God only knows; but I will not turn them out of it, let what will happen to me; you see, sir, they are all persons to whom our country is more or less indebted, and had they no such claim upon me, it would be inhuman to force them into the hands of the assassins.” No one of Morris’s countrymen can read his words even now without feeling a throb of pride in the dead statesman, who, a century ago, held up so high the honor of his nation’s name in the times when the souls of all but the very bravest were tried and found wanting.

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