John Marshall, an American in Paris, to Polly, on amusement, dissipation, and how hard it is to find a friend in Paris

While in Paris on a diplomatic mission, John Marshall had a lot of time on his hands because the French foreign minister refused to treat directly with the Americans. Marshall was impressed, but not taken in, by Paris. His account of the city as an “American in Paris” is characteristic of the response many Americans would have, I think:

Oh God, how much time & how much happiness have I thrown away! Paris presents one incessant round of amusement & dissipation but very little I believe even for its inhabitants of that society which interests the heart. Every day you may see something new magnificent & beautiful, every night you may see a spectacle which astonishes & enchants the imagination. The most lively fancy aided by the strongest description cannot equal the reality of the opera. All that you can conceive & a great deal more than you can conceive in the line of amusement is to be found in this gay metropolis but I suspect it would not be easy to find a friend.

I would not live in Paris, [if I could] … be among the wealthiest of its citizens.

John Marshall to Polly Marshall, November 27, 1797.

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