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, 21st November, 1816.
I had this morning an interview with the Duke de Richelieu on the subject of the application made by the minister of France for the removal of the postmaster of Baltimore on account of the toast given by him on the 4th of July last.
After reiterating the assurances of the respect felt by the President for his most Christian Majesty, and of his earnest desire to cultivate the most amicable relations with the government of France, I stated the impossibility of complying with the request of Mr. Hyde de Neuville, and the dissatisfaction felt by the government of the United States at the peremptory manner in which he had urged that request. It is unnecessary to enter into the detail of the explanations given and the observations made to show that our institutions and habits as well as public opinion would, independent of the dictatorial tone assumed by Mr. de Neuville, have forbidden the removal of an inferior officer merely because he had, on such a day as the 4th of July, indulged in an expression of his political opinions with respect to a foreign power or sovereign. I had, indeed, only to amplify the suggestions presented in your despatch of the 10th September.
In answer, the Duke of Richelieu premised that the liberty of the press as established in America and the liberty of speech belonging to private citizens were so perfectly known and understood, that the abuse of either, however unpleasant to the feelings of the French government, would not have been a subject of complaint. But we certainly would agree with him in acknowledging that the government of every civilized nation desirous of preserving friendly relations with another government must preserve those rules of mutual courtesy and civility which were established by public usage. It was, therefore, incomprehensible to him that any government could detach itself from its agents, and, whilst professing regard and consideration for a friendly sovereign, permit him to be wantonly and openly insulted by one of those agents, and refuse any reparation for such public insult. He was, he said, altogether unable to understand the alleged difficulty of dismissing for such an outrage an officer removable at the will of the government, since, as he was informed, such removals were frequent in the United States, where there did not exist, as in some other countries, any vested right in offices. In asking for the dismission of Mr. Skinner there was no intention of giving offence; it was only stating the kind of reparation which appeared most natural, and which would be satisfactory. The United States were too powerful, too independent of France and of every other nation, to suppose that any attempt should be made to dictate to them. Nor ought we to be astonished at the sensibility felt on this occasion. The world was yet divided in two parties, one of which wished to preserve, and the other to destroy, existing establishments. We felt perfectly safe in that respect; but the more precarious the situation of France might be supposed, the more important it was to take notice of any public insult, and to show that the sovereign of France was not a king of straw (the Duke’s own words). It would not be our interest, under the difficulties which she had now to encounter, that she should be vilified in the person of her monarch in the face of the world.
Thinking it important that you should know the ground assumed on that subject by this government, I have in this statement done full justice to the reasoning of the Duke. And I am sorry to say that no explanation I could give appeared to make any impression on him. I did not omit to dwell on the notorious facts that the King of Great Britain had been an annual theme of personal abuse on that day, without any notice having ever been taken of it by that government, which understood fully the nature of ours; and that it was unexampled with us that an officer should be removed for such a cause. I also alluded to the conduct of Daschkoff in Kosloff’s case (which was known to the Duke), to the singular coincidence by which an attempt was made to put our government at variance for the most trivial causes with two friendly powers, and to the advantages which Great Britain might hope to draw from that state of things.
The Duke still reverted to his first positions; and when he had become fully satisfied that no promise to remove the postmaster would be given to him, he said that the government of France could not certainly force ours to make them reparation for the insult given by that officer, and that they would be compelled to evince their dissatisfaction at our refusal in their own way. He immediately added that they would not preserve any public agent in the town where his Majesty had been publicly insulted. To that it was not necessary to make any reply; but I presume that their resentment will, unless policy should direct another course, be shown in a different way, and that the consideration of our demands will be adjourned. I will be able to ascertain this within a short time; and in that case my residence here will not only be personally unpleasant, but altogether useless to the public. I will omit, in the mean while, no opportunity of giving such further explanations, consistent with the ground which has been taken, as may prevent a result injurious to our citizens. The fact is, that, as has been sufficiently proved by the law which the King of the Netherlands has been compelled to have enacted, and by various other circumstances, a most sickly sensibility exists on the subject of personal abuse of the King, and that they view here objects connected with sovereigns through a medium so different from ours, that it is extremely difficult to make them feel and understand our explanations.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
Paris, 20th January, 1817.
Having received no answer from the Duke de Richelieu to my letter of 9th November last, I addressed to him on the 26th December a short note, of which, and of his answer dated the 16th instant, copies are enclosed.
In the interview which accordingly took place to-day, the Duke for the first time declared that he did not consider us as being of right entitled to an indemnity from the present French government on account of spoliations committed by that of Bonaparte on our commerce. In support of his position that the existing government was not responsible for the acts of injustice done by the former, he alleged, 1st, the example of Naples in rejecting our application to the same effect; 2dly, the conduct of the allied powers, who, although dictating within the walls of Paris terms of peace to France, had not carried the demand of indemnities for their subjects to the extent claimed by us; 3dly, the constant refusal of Bonaparte to indemnify us for those acts of injustice which he had committed himself. In the course of the conversation the Duke hinted, without positively expressing it, that any indemnity which might be allowed by the present government would be a favor, and said, alluding to the refusal to dismiss the postmaster of Baltimore, that we did not on our part show any disposition to do anything for France.
After having repeated what had already been stated on former occasions, that the United States could not be bound by the acts of the other powers to which they were not parties, and that the denial of justice by others could not justify a similar conduct on the part of France, I told the Duke that I thought it unnecessary, unless he thought proper to do it in an official shape, to enter into a discussion of the question of right, since he knew as well as myself that, under all the circumstances of the case, the present government of France was, according to the acknowledged principles of public law, responsible for the acts of those who had been in possession of the government during the expulsion of the Bourbons, and who had been recognized by all the powers of Europe. I requested, therefore, that he would proceed to state what he had concluded to offer in answer to the basis proposed in my note of the 9th of November. He said that his offer would fall very short of our demands; that he could not go beyond vessels burnt at sea, and for those the proceeds of which had been only sequestered and deposited in the caisse d’amortissement; and that it would even be difficult to obtain from the Chambers the authority to pay to that extent. He added that he would make his proposal in writing, and that this would not be attended with much delay. I then said that I could not give any opinion on his proposal until I had received his note; but that I wished him to understand that if the government of the United States thought it proper (which I could not at present promise) to accept an indemnity for certain classes only of our claims, this never could be purchased by a relinquishment of the other just demands of our citizens.
I did not fail to make some observations on what he had said respecting the toast of the 4th of July, and although he assured me that he had not in our former conversation expressed himself as strongly on that subject as he felt, I cannot help thinking the incident too insignificant to make a lasting impression. I had yesterday received your despatch of the 26th November, and infer from it that M. Hyde may himself try to repair the injury he has done.