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MVB to Charles E[dward] Dudley, 26 December 1821

My dear Sir,

A dispute took place here a few days since between the French and British Ministers which produced considerable exictement ^and^ of which the most erroneous and extravagant accounts are in circulation. It took place at the President's dinner at which all the foreign ministers were guests. There are so many different accounts of the transaction given here that it is next to impossible to ascertain with certainty which is the true one. Although I was of the party I saw but little and heard nothing as the altercation took place in the hall before I left the room. The facts however I believe to be substantially these: Some misunderstanding had existed between them in consequence of the account conduct of some British officer at some foreign station in regard to the French trade of which, the French minster in the opinion of Mr Canning made unreasonable complaint. The irritations growing out of it had however been settled and as Mr De. Newville supposed perfect amity restored. On the evening of the 19th a splendid party was given by De Newville in commemoration of the birth of the Duchess d'Angonleme and ^at^ which Mr Canning attended but left it before supper. Being placed next to each other at the Presidents table Mr De Newville asked Mr Canning why his visits at his house were not more frequent and more cordial—to which it is said that Mr Canning replyied that he was not in the habit of visiting frequently where he was not cordially received (It is probable that this reply is more harsely reported than it was made.) Nothing further passed at the table but Mr De Newville showed evident marks of perturbation which unexplained appeared very extraordinary to me who sat opposite to him and did not hear what was said. He rose from the table before the President and threw down his cloth which Mr Canning did also—but he immediately apologized and resumed his seat. After a little while the company retired to the drawing room and after Coffee retired as their carriages arrived. The ministers all happened to enter the hall together when Mr De Newville instantly and violently upraided Mr Canning with his conduct at the table—told him he had insulted him and that no Englishman should ever insult a Frenchman ^&c. &c.^ Mr Canning replied with great composure but frankness ^firmness^—that if had said anything which was insulting to Mr De Newville he was ready to give him suitable satisfaction but that that was not the place to settle it. His coldness tended to increase Mr De Newville's passion to such an extent that he became furious with rage went out and came in again and shook his fist &c. It is said the Swedish sub-minister stept in but his interference was wasted ^rejected^. The Russian minister then got between them and with much difficulty he and the gentlemen attached to the respective legations got Mr De Newville off: The Russian minister went directly to the French minister's house, and prevented a challenge from being sent that night. They have sinced dined together but without speaking.

Such I believe are the material facts of a transaction which will doubtless produce much conversation throughout the Country. I must beg you to see that this is not gazetted or otherwise used than for the information of our friends who may have any curiosity on the subject. What may grow out of it you can as well conjecture as we. Make my ^best^ respects to Mrs D and Miss Sarah and believe me to be

Very SIncerely Yours,


Mr. De Newville is believed to be a very amiable man but of violent passion when excited Canning is I think a perfect gentleman. De Newville about 50 Canning 33.

Copy in unknown hand.

Source: DLC Library of Congress
Collection: MVB Papers (DLC)
Series: Series 4 (3 December 1821-31 December 1824)