Front Page Titles (by Subject) GALLATIN TO MONROE. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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GALLATIN TO MONROE. - Albert Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2 
The Writings of Albert Gallatin, ed. Henry Adams (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1879). 3 vols.
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GALLATIN TO MONROE.
Paris, 14th October, 1816.
The Duke de Richelieu appointed the 30th for the interview which I had asked in my note to him of the 25th ultimo. He first asked me whether England intended to indemnify us for the captures made under the orders in council. I replied that we had not yet obtained anything, and added that although we had made an express declaration before signing the peace with her that we did not abandon our just claims for indemnity, yet he must be sensible that the circumstance of our having made war against England for that very object, and afterwards concluded a peace without providing for it, placed us, with respect to that nation, on a very different footing from that on which we stood with France. On this he observed that we had also in some degree impaired our claim against France by having adopted measures of retaliation, such as the exclusion of her vessels and produce from our ports. I made the obvious answer that this prohibition, which we had made common to England and France, had no hostile character, that it was only a municipal measure, such as every nation had a right, without giving offence, to adopt at all times, and which did not materially differ from the prohibitory laws now adopted by France with respect to foreign manufactures.
The Duke then stated that he was not authorized to enter into a negotiation for the purpose of providing an indemnity to the citizens of the United States for the captures and confiscations made by virtue of the Berlin and Milan decrees; that it was absolutely impossible for the present government of France to make compensation for the whole mass of injustice and injuries done by the former governments; that the whole territory, if sold, would not suffice for that object; that it had, therefore, been necessary to limit the measure of indemnity to the most flagrant cases, and that such had been the course adopted in the late treaties between France and the European powers; that the Berlin and Milan decrees were of a general nature, and not exclusively applicable to us, and that compensation for injuries arising from their execution, if made to us, must be extended to other nations, such as the Swedes, who, he said, were also sufferers in that respect; in fine, that, as the principle of granting indemnities on account of losses sustained under those decrees had not been recognized by the late treaties of Paris, it was not deemed proper to adopt it in our favor.
I replied that it was preposterous to suppose that the United States could, in any case, be bound by principles adopted in treaties to which they had not been parties; that the allied powers had selected those cases for indemnity in which they were principally concerned; that, as they had almost always been at war or in alliance with France, their claims were of a nature totally different from ours, which were derived from a most flagrant violation of neutral rights; that whilst some of those powers had an interest in preventing the recognition of the principle of indemnity for such violation, the few eases affecting a nation whose weight in the negotiations was inconsiderable (Sweden) must have been necessarily overlooked; and that the Berlin and Milan decrees, though nominally of a general nature, had, so far as they infringed neutral rights, fallen almost exclusively on the United States. I added that there were, however, some claims admitted in the late treaties which, according to the common usage of nations and to every notion of justice, were far less founded in right than those of our citizens for the losses sustained under those decrees; and I mentioned as an instance the compensation to British subjects for losses arising from the general reduction of the public debt of France to one-third of its original amount.
To this last observation the Duke immediately replied that this was one of the concessions which had been made to Great Britain in consideration of her having released France from the payment of the large balance due for the support of prisoners. To my other observations he made no satisfactory answer, and, without seeming to deny the justice of our claim for indemnity on account of the two decrees, he persisted in his first declaration, that he was not authorized to conclude any arrangement on that subject. He added that his government was disposed to pay (in stock) for vessels burnt at sea.
I then stated explicitly that the United States could not abandon the claims of their citizens for indemnity in any case where there had been a violation of neutral rights according to the acknowledged law of nations; but that as, exclusively of the Berlin and Milan decrees, there had been numerous other acts of the French government under which great losses had been sustained, I wished to know with precision what were the cases in which his Majesty’s government was disposed to make compensation, in order that I might be enabled to judge whether I could accept or make any proposal according with those views and not inconsistent with our rights, or whether I ought simply to transmit the determination of this government to my own.
The Duke professed himself not to be well informed with respect to the acts to which I alluded, and requested me to confer with Mr. De Rayneval, who acts as Under-Secretary of State, and on whose report he would be enabled to lay the subject before his Majesty’s council.
You will perceive a great difference between what passed on this occasion and the tenor of our interview of the 30th of August. As the Duke de Richelieu could have no interest in not explicitly saying then what he stated at the last conference, and as indeed want of candor is by no one ascribed to him, it may be presumed that he did not at first know the whole amount of our claims, or that he has been overruled by the council of ministers. But it is worthy of notice that not the most distant hint has been given that this government was not responsible for the conduct of Bonaparte. Such doctrine is untenable even here.
Mr. Rayneval accordingly called on me on the 3d instant. He said that he had never before attended to the subject, and I did not attempt to discuss it with him. I only gave him the list of the several decrees, beginning with that of Berlin and ending with that of Rambouillet, and stated that there were a number of cases in which seizures had been made under color of those decrees and the vessels and cargoes sold, but where no condemnation had taken place, and that there might also be cases where property had been sequestered without reference to any decree. I explained to him that the object of our conference was to point out to him the several grounds of complaint on our part in order to enable him to report to the minister, and he promised to examine the subject immediately and to see me before he made that report. I have not heard from him since that day, and if any further delay takes place I will address an official note to the minister, in which it will be necessary to discuss the whole subject.