Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1817: GALLATIN TO MONROE. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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1817: 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, 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.
CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN.
Washington, 12th March, 1817.
My dear Sir,—
Your letter of the 22d November last, as well as that which preceded it, has come to hand. I am extremely obliged to you for the information which they furnished. Some time in the month of January I wrote you a long letter, but the want of a convenient opportunity to transmit it has kept it by me to this time. As many of the conjectures with which it abounded are now realized or falsified, I have determined to suppress it and give a view of the state of things as they now exist.
John Q. Adams Secretary of State, I remain in the Treasury, Crowninshield in the Navy, and Governor Shelby in the War Department. In the month of January Mr. Monroe called at my office and stated his solicitude that I should form a part of his Administration, and with great apparent, and I believe real sincerity, explained the reasons why he thought it would be better for me to remain in the Treasury Department rather than to go into the State Department. The view which he presented was entirely satisfactory to me. The only difficulty I had to surmount was that of private interest. The situation in which I had been placed by a portion of the Republicans during the preceding session might lead the malevolent to ascribe my retiring from the Cabinet to any other than the correct motive. This idea was incessantly pressed upon me by Mr. Macon and Dr. Bibb, and, independent of the respect due to their opinions, was entitled to consideration. Self-respect, as well as a desire to retain the good opinion of those with whom I had long been associated, strongly impelled me to make the sacrifice of interest which remaining in the Administration necessarily required. These motives, however, were balanced by several other considerations. The Secretaries had recommended a change in the organization of the accounting departments of the government. It was known that that recommendation rested principally upon my responsibility. Should it be rejected, there was but little ground to expect that the public accounts could be brought up, and the odium would increase with the lapse of time. In my office, and that of Treasurer, the amounts had not been balanced from June, 1815. In every other Department it was worse, and no rational hope existed that the arrearage, under the then organization, would ever be reduced. To remain in the Treasury under such circumstances afforded no prospect of gaining reputation, but a certainty of losing what little might have been previously acquired.
But there was another difficulty in my way. Under the convention with Georgia, that State was to receive $1,250,000 out of the first net proceeds of the lands ceded. The compromise with the Yazoo claimants made the stock issued to them received in all payments due for public lands sold after the date of the stock. This stock was issued principally in the month of July, 1815, when not one-fourth of the $1,250,000 was paid to Georgia. As Secretary of the Treasury, it would have been my duty to have executed this law to the manifest injury of Georgia, and in open violation of the articles of agreement and cession. As a citizen of Georgia, I would not—I could not consistently with my feelings—place myself in a situation to become the passive instrument of injustice to my own State. Under all these circumstances I felt it to be my duty to advise Mr. Monroe to look out for a proper person to fill the Treasury Department, as it was highly improbable that my difficulty could be removed. This communication produced a message from the President recommending an appropriation of money equal to the amount of stock received for lands until the debt to Georgia was discharged. This message was carried into effect by an Act, and the changes in the organization of the Departments recommended in our report to the Senate, except in the appointment of the Solicitor of the Treasury and in the summary mode of recovering money from defaulting officers, were also carried into effect. After the adoption of these measures there was no longer any insurmountable difficulty in remaining in the Cabinet, and thus it is that you see my name in the list of nominations. Upon going into the Treasury at the entreaty of Mr. Madison for the purpose of introducing Mr. Clay into the Cabinet, I stated my wish not to be nominated to the Senate until I had made up my mind as to continuing in it, and Mr. Madison consented to withhold it for that purpose. As the measures I have described were not finally acted upon until the 3d day of March, my nomination could not be made by Mr. Madison, so that on the 4th I was a private citizen, one of the real sovereign people.
The War Department was offered by Mr. Madison to Mr. Clay and not accepted; it was again offered to him by Mr. Monroe, shortly after his interview with me, and rejected in the most decided manner. Upon this act becoming public, General Harrison, Colonel R. M. Johnson, Governor Cass, and the Postmaster-General had their advocates. It is proper, however, to observe that the Virginia Senators had pressed the colonel upon the President-elect from the commencement of the session. He had also set his heart upon it, and required all the soothing which his friends could give him to reconcile him to the disappointment. Placed as I was in the most doubtful situation, I did not venture to inquire or to advise. In the only interviews I had with Mr. Monroe,—one sought by him, and the other by myself,—my opinions were confined to my own case. Mr. Russell made a deliberate effort to prevent the appointment of Mr. Adams, and had the address to enlist Crowninshield in the exertion.
How far he felt interested in his exclusion is difficult to decide. There is much reason to believe that he also urged the appointment of Mr. Clay to the State Department. I believe Mr. Monroe’s confidential advisers from Virginia were laboring in the same vocation, some from proper and others from interested motives, which you will be able to conceive. After the explanation of his views to me, he could not for a moment have thought of Mr. Clay for the State Department without having previously made up his mind to lose my good opinion and, of course, my services; because every reason assigned against my going into the State Department operated stronger against Mr. Clay than against me. These reasons, as you will conceive, were all of a political nature, and existed in a stronger degree against him than any other person brought into view for that office.
It is generally believed that Shelby will not accept; who will be selected in that event I know not. An impression prevails that the Western States will be malcontents during the Administration of Mr. Monroe. It is even said that the Speaker has declared his determination on that point.
This is not credible, but he has made declarations to me which I conceive to be the forerunner of such an opposition. He has become an advocate for the most rigid economy, and declares that the nation will not be satisfied if the public accounts are not annually settled. In the present state of the accounts, and the defect of power to enforce settlements with those upon whose accounts the settlement of others will necessarily depend, it will be impossible to bring up the arrearage in the War and Navy Departments.
He also expresses his belief that a schism is about to take place, and that new combinations of the discordant materials of which the two great political parties are composed will be formed, and that this will be certainly so in the Western States. From this view of the subject I presume you will agree with me that Mr. Monroe is not likely to repose on a bed of roses during his present term. It is certain that the great depression of the Federal party, and their apparent disposition to lose themselves for a time in the council of the nation by uniting in the measures of the Executive, cannot fail to relax the bonds by which the Republican party has been hitherto kept together. Should they pursue this course until the schism shall be completed, it is not easy to foresee the consequences to the Republican party.
The revenue has greatly exceeded the most sanguine calculations. That arising from the customs during the year 1816 exceeded $30,000,000, whilst the receipts from that source exceeded $36,000,000. It is highly probable that that which will accrue from the customs during the present year will fall much below that of the average of any series of succeeding years. I have estimated it at $12,000,000, which is probably too low. The sinking fund has been increased to $10,000,000, and any surplus in the Treasury, after satisfying the annual appropriations and leaving two millions of dollars in the Treasury. They have, moreover, appropriated $9,000,000 in addition for this year, with the power of advancing $4,000,000 as an advance for the year 1818.
You will have seen that a motion has been made to repeal the internal taxes, which had a majority in its favor, but which was abandoned after spending a week, when there was not more than eight or ten days left for the despatch of business. It is possible that some of the members might have voted for it merely for the populace, under a conviction that the measure could not be carried during the session; but it is more probable that they would have repealed the system if they had had time. Another motion was made to reduce the army, but was more feebly supported in both Houses. Considering the immense proportion of new members which there will be in the next Congress, and the principles upon which the most of them have been elected, there is just ground to expect a levelling session,—a session in which inconsistency will be the dominant feature; a session in which money will be voted with a lavish hand, and the sources of revenue greatly diminished. To restrain this spirit of demolition it will be incumbent on the Executive to come forward and to mark the course most distinctly which Congress ought to pursue. Nothing but a firm stand in that department will be sufficient to restrain the predisposition to pull down what has been built up within the last years, and throw the nation again wholly upon foreign commerce for revenue. Mr. Monroe is sensible of this necessity, and has made up his mind to meet it, as he ought.
The compensation law has deprived the nation of the services of many men of great worth. Among that number is Dr. Bibb. He is succeeded by Colonel Troup. In the other House the whole representation from that State was rejected except Forsyth, who was barely elected, being the lowest on the list.
Finley is nominated by a convention for governor of Pennsylvania, and Heister by the old-school men. It is believed that Peter B. Porter will be nominated on the 25th instant as the Republican candidate of New York. De Witt Clinton will be run at the convention for that office.
Mr. Randolph has declined a re-election. I have heard nothing of the person who is to succeed Mr. Adams.
Mr. de Neuville has conciliated the people of this place and the members of Congress very much during the winter by a prudent course of conduct. The newspapers have laid aside their asperity, and if the foolish affair of the toast at Baltimore could be well disposed of, I believe there would not arise any further cause of collision. The opinion which you state that he has given to the French Ministry corresponds with his declarations to Mr. Monroe on that subject. His wife is very amiable, and is highly respected for her excellent qualities. It is really ridiculous that the French Ministry should work up such a trifle into an object of such importance.
There is no rational ground to hope for an increase of salary during the next Congress. I hope you will be able to bear the expense for that period, or find no difficulty in obtaining the consent of the President to return.
Judge Nicholson died suddenly a few days ago. He had paid us a visit but a few days before, and was in better than ordinary health. Mr. Macon had left the city before your letter was received. Your salutation shall be communicated to him in my first letter.
Present my respects to Mrs. Gallatin and every member of your family, and believe me, my dear sir, your friend, &c., &c.
P.S.—Remember me affectionately to General La Fayette, Count Marbois, the Duke and Duchess of Plaisance, and to Mr. and Mrs. Hottinguer.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS, U. S. Minister in England.
Paris, 16th April, 1817.
I duly received your letter of 22d ult., but had not till this moment any safe opportunity of answering it.
The 4th Article proposed by the British government appears to me, as it does to you, to be substantially the same which we had rejected and to be altogether inadmissible. I should think that mutual convenience might induce both parties to frame an article for the necessary inland intercourse with Canada, which would be beneficial to the inhabitants on both sides the lines and still be free of any substantial objection. On our part, we must still insist for their exclusion from the trade with our Indians, and, if they will not suffer us to enjoy the navigation of the St. Lawrence below our line, the commercial intercourse should be limited to articles of the produce of the United States and of Canada respectively.
The 1st Article might afford some employment to our small vessels; and the clause which insures reciprocal advantages to British vessels might be so expressed as to be strictly reciprocal, and as to leave us the power of taxing or excluding those vessels when having more than one deck, or when laden with other articles than those which our vessels would by that article be permitted to export or to import. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details of that trade to appreciate the value of what we would gain by the arrangement. But I much doubt whether, confined as it is to small vessels, and excluding on the one hand sugar and coffee, and on the other lumber, fish, salted provisions, live-stock, &c., it would be at all acceptable to our fellow-citizens.
The 2d Article is, I think, useless and dangerous. Great Britain will always be ready to favor an intercourse with Bermuda for the purpose of amply supplying a naval depot and station which is exclusively designed against us.
The 3d Article is the best, as from the bulk of the article (salt), and there being no limitation to the size of the vessels, they may be usefully employed in the trade with the Turk’s Islands. But even there we are not permitted to import provisions.
There is no article proposed for the intercourse with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I do not know whether Congress has passed the proposed bill to retaliate on the Plaister Act.
I really do not believe that there is anything in these observations which had not already struck you, and they are made only in compliance with your wishes.
The government of Naples has rejected in toto our demand for indemnity. I have not been more fortunate here, and have never felt more completely useless than since my arrival at this Court.
Accept, I pray, the assurance of the very high consideration and esteem with which I ever am, dear sir, your most obedient servant. I pray Mrs. Adams to accept the assurance of my best respects.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
Paris, 23d April, 1817.
I had an interview on the 13th instant with the Duke de Richelieu, in which he announced to me that he had concluded not to give a written answer to my note of the 9th of November last on the subject of American claims. The claims of the subjects of European powers, which France was by the conventions of 1815 bound to pay, had been estimated at a sum not exceeding at most one hundred and fifty millions of francs (or an annuity of seven and a half millions). But it was now found that the terms thus imposed were much harsher than the French government had expected, or than the allies themselves had intended. The reclamations under the convention with Great Britain did not, indeed, exceed the sum of fifty millions at which they had been estimated; but those of the subjects of Continental powers, filed with the commission appointed for that purpose, exceeded twelve hundred millions, without including a portion of Spanish claims; the time for presenting which has not yet expired. Many of those demands would undoubtedly be rejected or reduced by the commission. Still, the probable amount which might be declared justly due so far exceeded every previous calculation, and was so much beyond the ability of France to pay, that he (the Duke) was now employed in seeking some means of obtaining modifications which might bring the payments in some measure within the resources of the country. Under such circumstances, and whilst unable to face the engagements which superior force had imposed on them, it was, he said, utterly impossible for his Majesty’s government to contract voluntarily new obligations. They were not willing to reject absolutely and definitively our reclamations in toto; they could not at this time admit them. What he had now verbally communicated could not, for many reasons, become the ground of an official answer to my note. He had, therefore, concluded that a silent postponement of the subject was the least objectionable course, since having now made our demand for indemnity in an official manner, the question would be left entire for discussion at some more favorable time, after France was in some degree disentangled from her present difficulties. He added that if there was any apparent inconsistency between the language he had formerly held and what he was now compelled to say, it must be ascribed to the circumstances he had stated, to the extraordinary and frightful amount to which he had lately found other foreign claims to have swelled.
After some remarks on the disappointment which, after what had passed in our first conversations, this unexpected determination must produce, I replied that the payment by France of exaggerated and doubtful claims to the subjects of every other foreign power did but increase the injustice of refusing to admit the moderate and unexceptionable demands of the American citizens. The present embarrassments of France, however increased by the magnitude of these foreign private claims, could form no solid objection to the recognition and liquidation, although they might impede the immediate discharge, of our reclamations. It was with this view of the subject that I had, from the first outset, expressed the disposition of the government of the United States to accommodate that of France as to the time and manner of making compensation to the claimants. I added that his declining to answer my note in writing would, exclusively of other objections, leave no trace of the ground on which he placed the postponement of the subject.
The Duke, without answering my observations in a direct way, gave me to understand that after the great sacrifices to which the King’s Ministers had been compelled to give a reluctant assent, and the magnitude of which would soon be known, they would not dare to take the responsibility of acknowledging a new debt, although made payable at a distant period. He then took new ground, and alluded to the refusal of England and of Naples to give us any indemnity.
On this last point, after having observed that a failure of justice on the part of those nations did not justify a similar conduct on the part of France, I repeated what had already been mentioned in former conversations, that our having made war against England had placed our claim for indemnity on a different footing from that on which we still stood towards France. There is, I added, another material difference with respect to a large mass of claims. England had adopted most illegal and unjustifiable measures towards our commerce; but after having laid down the rule, the application had been left to the ordinary courts of admiralty, and all the property for which we claimed indemnity had been unlawfully but regularly condemned by those courts; a considerable portion of the condemnations in France had been made not by the ordinary tribunal (the council of prizes), but, contrary to the usual course of law, and even to a positive treaty, by the arbitrary order of the Emperor; and we claimed the payment of much property which had not even been condemned, but had only been sequestered.
As to Naples, I reminded the Duke that the ground assumed by that Court was, that having always kept possession of a part of the monarchy, the domination of Murat on the remainder must be considered only as a temporary military occupation, and not as a regular government de facto, for whose acts they could now be made responsible. Even this plea, untenable as it was, could not be urged by France, and I was satisfied that her present government, if resolved to reject our claims, would not give as a reason that they were not answerable for the acts of the former government.
The Duke answered that they might at least say that such was the mass of acts of injustice and of iniquities, to repair which was the legacy bequeathed to the King by that former government, that it had become physically impossible to do complete justice; for necessity was a barrier before which justice itself must stop. Their resources were not sufficient to satisfy every claim, and a superior force had engrossed the whole and put it out of their power to make an equal distribution.
On my mentioning that his Majesty’s government had voluntarily recognized all the engagements previously contracted with French subjects, and which constituted what was called the arriéré, and suggesting that the sequestrations of American property might be considered as coming under that description, which would prevent the necessity of asking a specific credit for that object from the legislative body, he answered that the law would not justify such a construction.
Having exhausted every argument which the occasion suggested, I ended the conference by saying that, as I could not compel him to give me a written answer, I would reflect on the course which it behooved me to pursue, and that probably I would refer the case to my government. He said that he intended to write to Mr. de Neuville to make to you a communication similar to that which he now had made to me.
Had I only listened to my feelings, I would have written to the Duke to demand, at all events, an answer to my note of the 9th of November. But as, after what he had told me, this might have provoked a decisive rejection of our claims, I did not think myself at liberty to adopt a course which might prove so injurious to our fellow-citizens, and place the relations between the two countries on an ineligible footing, without having previously submitted the question to you.
I therefore addressed to him, yesterday, the letter of which a copy is enclosed. Its principal object, as you will perceive, is to put on record the ground on which he had himself placed the postponement of the subject, and to leave the door open to further representations respecting cases of property not condemned, in case you should think it best not to urge further at present the demand for indemnity in all cases.1 I must add that there is still a hope of obtaining hereafter justice in cases of property sequestered or burnt, but that I have not the least expectation that any compensation will ever be made for property which has been definitely condemned. . . .
I regret that my endeavors should not have been attended with better success, and that the versatility of the Duke de Richelieu should have raised expectations which are now disappointed. But had I even anticipated this result, I should nevertheless have thought it necessary to make a formal demand to this government of an adjustment of our claims. For you will be pleased to recollect that, owing to the time necessary to give a new commission near the King to Mr. Crawford, to the ensuing departure of Prince Talleyrand for Vienna, and to the subsequent political events, no opportunity had yet occurred to make that demand since the first restoration of the Bourbons. If longer delayed, and especially at a time when they were liquidating every species of claim, foreign and domestic, it might have been justly viewed as an abandonment of the claims.
CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN.
Washington, 23d April, 1817.
My dear Sir,—
I have already acknowledged the receipt of your two letters dated in September and November of the last year.
To Mr. Brown I must refer you for general information respecting the situation of the country.
It is understood and asserted in the Kentucky gazettes that Governor Shelby has declined accepting the War Department, but no direct information has been received here upon that subject. I am wholly ignorant of the views of the President respecting the Department. It is one of those appointments which ought to be made entirely upon his own responsibility; it would therefore be nothing short of impertinence for any person to intrude his opinions upon him. Whispers, however, are going about that George Graham, the Acting Secretary, will become the permanent director of that Department. This is not probable. I fear the geographical consideration which led to the selection of Governor Shelby will still direct the selection. In that event there is almost an absolute certainty of a bad appointment. Campbell, it is said, would be willing to take it or the appointment now filled by Mr. Adams. He is certainly preferable to Johnson, Harrison, R. J. Meigs, or Cass, all of whom are willing to receive it, and have been pressed upon the President. An impression has recently been made that Mr. Clay may still be brought to accept it. He is certainly dissatisfied with his situation, or with the Administration. He now talks of resigning his public station at the end of the next session of Congress and retiring to private life for some years. That he is dissatisfied with the appointment of Mr. Adams is notorious, but there may be some doubt in ascertaining the true source of that dissatisfaction.
Pope has been appointed Secretary of State by Lieutenant-Governor Slaughter, and approved by a large majority of the State Senate. The Legislature, by large majorities in both branches, have declared that Slaughter is constitutionally governor for the whole term for which Governor Madison was elected. All these acts are understood to be disapproved by Mr. Clay. The connection between Pope and Adams it is supposed will give strength and influence to the former, and no doubt is entertained that that influence will be uniformly exerted to the annoyance of the Speaker. Under these circumstances it is supposed that opposition to his re-election will be inevitable, and that, although it may not be successful, it will require exertions on his part which are hardly compatible with the standing which he now occupies in the national councils. It becomes, therefore, an act of prudence to retire from his public station, either to private life or to another in which he will not be dependent on the people nor subject to be annoyed by his hated rival. It is, however, understood that he objects to entering the Cabinet in what he considers a subordinate rank. His ambition will not permit him to be in any other than the first rank in the Cabinet. How the conflict between his ambition and his dread of retirement will terminate remains to be seen. I think there are but few men who have less relish for retirement than Mr. Clay; but he may nevertheless make the experiment.
A new state of things has arisen in New York. De Witt Clinton again wields the influence of that State. The Vice-President will become a cipher in the politics of New York before the end of four years. His chance of the Presidency I consider as gone, never to return. Clinton will again appear the Northern favorite, to the exclusion of Tompkins and Adams. If the Vice-President had been able to preserve his influence in New York, his task was an easy one. He had only to be silent, and vote with the Administration whenever the Senate was tied, to secure his elevation to the Presidency at the end of eight years. This, I presume, he would have had discretion enough to have done. As the question now stands, the Presidency, at the retirement of Mr. Monroe, will be a prize which will be fiercely contested between the North and the West, if Mr. Clay should be able to preserve his popularity in that section of the Union, which at that period will be very strong. Should New England become Republican, it is possible that Mr. Adams may compete with Clinton and the Western candidate, especially if Mr. Clay should lose his popularity and Mr. Pope regain his former standing in Kentucky.
In Connecticut the toleration ticket has prevailed. This triumph, which is rather of a religious than political character, may, and probably will, have a decided influence eventually upon the political institutions of the State.
In other parts of the Union things remain nearly in their former state as to political party. In Pennsylvania the old-school men and Federalists are rapidly amalgamating, and in some parts appear to be gaining strength. If they do not fall out by the way, it is not improbable that they may eventually become very formidable, if not triumphant. In that event De Witt Clinton would receive the suffrage of that State.
Mr. Randolph has declined a re-election, and intends to visit Europe for the recovery of his health. I presume you will see him in the course of the year at Paris.
Specie payments have everywhere been resumed, and no inconvenience has resulted from it in any part of the country. No news has been received from the agent employed to buy specie in Europe, as far as I am acquainted with the fact.
The commissioners of the sinking fund have determined to make an effort to purchase Louisiana stock in Europe. Bills on Amsterdam are at par, on London at 3 per cent. premium. As three millions of that stock must be redeemed at the Treasury during the next year, it is presumed that the holders will be disposed to receive something less than the nominal amount this year in London or Amsterdam, and save the loss and embarrassment of withdrawing that amount during the next year from our Treasury. Six per cent. stock is very near par throughout the United States. As yet I have kept out of the market (except in the purchase from the banks in Baltimore to enable them to settle their balances with the Bank of the United States, recently accumulated; about $1,000,000 has been purchased in this way), for the purpose of keeping it below par until the last instalment is paid into the bank, under a hope that a larger amount may be subscribed.
If this expectation should be disappointed, it will be impossible to apply the sum placed at the disposition of the commissioners of the sinking fund.
As well as I recollect, you promised to send me a file of Paris newspapers,—the Journal de Paris, or some minor paper of that description. I have not yet received any since Mr. Jackson discontinued that paper. If you take any such paper, you will oblige me much by sending it to me.
Present my respects to Mrs. Gallatin and each individual of your family, and accept the assurance of my highest esteem.
Yours, &c., &c.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
Paris, 11th July, 1817.
I have alluded in my former letters to the difficulties which I foresaw in making any commercial arrangements with this country. It had, for several reasons, appeared to me desirable that any overture for that purpose should come from this government; and there was reason to believe that the manufacturing and a portion of the agricultural interest of France would recommend the subject to the consideration of the Ministry. This has in some degree taken place. A commission of eminent merchants and manufacturers charged by government with a critical examination of the tariff of duties on importations and exportations had already come to the determination of recommending the repeal of every species of duty on the importation of cotton wool; and I am informed that a few days ago they passed a resolution, which has been entered in their procès-verbal and transmitted to the Ministry, expressing their opinion of the importance of the commerce of the United States, and their wish that the commercial relations between the two countries might be arranged by some convention or understanding between the two governments.
In a conversation which I had yesterday with the Duke de Richelieu for the purpose of stating to him the object of my mission to the Netherlands, he asked whether we would not also make some commercial arrangements equally beneficial to France and to the United States. On my answering that I was authorized to open a negotiation on that subject whenever I found a corresponding disposition on the part of France, he said that such a disposition did exist; that the subject was new to him, but that he would, he hoped, be ready to discuss it on my return from Brussels. He added that there were, however, some difficulties in the way. The result of the revolutionary wars and treaties was that France had not now a treaty of commerce in force with a single European nation. With some powers she could not, under existing circumstances, treat on an equal footing, or with any expectation of making arrangements founded on a fair reciprocity. This objection did not apply to the United States; but it might be inconvenient to make a treaty with us alone. Perhaps we might find it practicable to come to an understanding, in conformity with which the commercial relations of the two countries might be arranged by the laws of each, without a formal treaty and without affording any cause of umbrage to other powers. I expressed my readiness to discuss the subject whenever he was disposed to do it, and will accordingly resume it on my return.
I have not, however, very sanguine expectations of a favorable result, or that anything more can be obtained than some modification of duties. The system of raising a large revenue on the consumption of tobacco, by a monopoly of its manufacture and a partial cultivation of the plant in France, opposes an insuperable barrier to any beneficial change in the existing regulations respecting the tobacco of the United States. I know, also, that the arrangements contemplated by the board to which I have alluded have for basis a reduction of duties on the importation of French manufactures in the United States; and the Duke de Richelieu alluded to the high rate of our duties on French wines. This last article is the only one on which we might, if equivalent advantages were obtained, reduce the duties without loss to the revenue, and without interfering either with our manufactures or agricultural produce, or affecting our commercial arrangements with other countries. I am aware that I have no authority to treat on that basis, but I submit the subject (that respecting French wines) to your consideration, because, although the quantity we consume is trifling, it has nevertheless been always considered here as of vast importance.
As connected with this subject, it is desirable that I should be furnished with the most recent statement that the Register’s records can give of our importations from and our exportations to France. I have not received the general annual statements of importations and exports presented to Congress during their last session. What I principally want are the importations for the years 1815 and 1816, as they will enable me to show of what vast importance our consumption of French manufactures is to this country. Of this the silk manufacturers of Lyons are sufficiently aware. But I am confident that the amount, when correctly stated, will far exceed what this government may suppose it to be.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO MONROE.
Paris, 12th July, 1817.
The communications first made by Mr. de Neuville to his government, and particularly the ground which he had taken on the subject of the Baltimore toast, had produced here a very unfavorable effect. Those which he has lately made must be of a very different character, and the effect is perceivable.
In the conversation which I had on the 10th instant with the Duke de Richelieu, he expressed his satisfaction at finding from his last despatches that the most favorable dispositions existed on the part of our government towards that of France. He made no allusion whatever to the subject of the postmaster. He then said that he wished it to be clearly understood that the postponement of our claims for spoliations was not a rejection; that a portion of them was considered as founded in justice; that he was not authorized to commit his Majesty’s government by any positive promise, but that it was their intention to make an arrangement for the discharge of our just demands as soon as they were extricated from their present embarrassments. He still persisted, however, in his former ground, that they could not at present recognize the debt or adjust its amount.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN AND EUSTIS TO J. Q. ADAMS, Secretary of State.
Hague, 22d September, 1817.
The King of the Netherlands having selected the Hague for the seat of the negotiations between this country and the United States, we accordingly proceeded to this place, having previously had several conversations at Bruxelles with Baron de Nagel, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The commissioners appointed to treat with us were Mr. Goldberg, Director-General of the Department of Commerce and Colonies, and Mr. Vanderkemp, member of the Council of Commerce. But, contrary to the expectations which we had formed on our first interviews with Mr. de Nagel and with the commissioners, after several conferences and four weeks of negotiation, we have been unable to come to an agreement on any of the points contemplated by our instructions.
The negotiations turned on three points,—the treaty of 1782 between the States-General of the Netherlands and the United States, the repeal of the discriminating duties, and the admission of American vessels in the Dutch colonies and foreign settlements.
Our instructions being wholly silent on the first point, we could only presume that it was not the intention of our government that the treaty should be abrogated or materially altered; and we proposed that its stipulations should be extended to Belgium and Louisiana, both of which were acquisitions made subsequent to the year 1782. The Dutch commissioners agreed to the proposed extension; but both they and Baron de Nagel evinced a strong desire either that the old treaty should be set aside to make room for new stipulations, or that the principles which it contains on the subject of neutral rights should be abandoned. Besides other unimportant modifications, they objected to the 5th Article as calculated to involve either nation in the wars of the other, and particularly insisted that the latter part of the 11th Article, beginning with the words “declaring most expressly,” should be struck out. Although the ostensible objection to that paragraph was its being a mere abstract declaration, it will not escape you that it contains an important principle not altogether unconnected with the question of impressment. We uniformly answered that it was not the wish of the United States, nor did the experience of the long period during which the treaty had been in force justify the apprehension, that either nation should or could be involved in any war on account of any of its stipulations, and that, our government not having anticipated the objections now made, we did not feel ourselves authorized to agree to any important alteration. The Dutch commissioners finally withdrew their proposed amendments, in compliance, as they said, with our wishes, but added that they would, in signing a new treaty, make a written declaration expressive of the meaning they attached to those articles of the former one to which they had objected. Although the preservation of that treaty will not probably form an insuperable bar to any future arrangements with this country, they may in other respects be facilitated, in case our government shall think proper to abrogate it and to substitute provisions similar to those adopted in the treaty of 1799 between the United States and Prussia.
We had at first connected the repeal of the discriminating duties with the admission in the colonies, and proposed a general and unqualified repeal without distinction of place or merchandise, provided the American vessels and cargoes were admitted on the same footing in the Dutch East and West India settlements. But that admission was offered by them only on the footing of the most favored nations, and on the express condition that the United States should, as an equivalent for it, make some additional concession.
The privilege of being admitted at Surinam on the same footing as the most favored nations was of no value, since we are in fact the only nation whose vessels are received in that colony; and we were aware that we ought not to accede to any stipulation on that subject which might be inconsistent with the general policy of the United States towards Great Britain and the other powers who have colonies in the West Indies. After having unsuccessfully urged every argument calculated to show the unreasonableness of the system adopted towards the United States with respect to an intercourse absolutely necessary to those colonies, and the baneful effect of those restrictions on the prosperity of the colonies themselves, we declared that we preferred to have no treaty stipulation on the subject of that intercourse rather than to accept an admission on the terms proposed, even if the demand of an additional equivalent was withdrawn.
We could not urge altogether on the same grounds the propriety of being admitted without restriction in the East Indies; we knew that the trade now enjoyed by us with Java was profitable and had excited the jealousy of the Dutch merchants, who wish to see us excluded; and the terms on which we had heretofore accepted the admission in the British possessions in that quarter were well known to this government. We therefore proposed the projet of an article founded in substance on the same basis; but we altogether refused to give or promise any additional concession, or any other equivalent than was to be found in the general advantages of our commerce. This last condition of an equivalent was, however, notwithstanding every effort on our part, pertinaciously adhered to, on the preposterous ground that a distinction must be made in favor of the nations who, having colonies, could offer reciprocal advantages which we had not to give. This determination was the more unexpected, as Baron de Nagel had in conversation given us reason to believe that he thought the demand unreasonable. Although the equivalent was not defined in the proposal delivered by the Dutch commissioners, they stated verbally that they would wish a reduction of our duties on cheese, gin, and some other articles of their growth; but that they would be satisfied with a promise to grant to the subjects of the Netherlands a participation in the commerce of any colonies which we might acquire during the existence of the proposed treaty. The first proposition was evidently inadmissible, and on the second we stated that neither had the United States any desire of acquiring colonies, nor could we on the face of a treaty avow or admit such an intention. It was only in the last conference that they gave us to understand that if we had agreed to their proposal on the subject of the repeal of discriminating duties, they might have found therein a sufficient equivalent for admitting us in the East Indies on the footing of the most favored nations.
With respect to those duties, it had been without difficulty agreed that those on tonnage or vessels should be altogether abolished, with an understanding on one hand that this provision should not affect the intercourse with the colonies that might not be included in the treaty, and, on the other hand, that the agreement was conditional on the part of the Dutch commissioners; as, in case we could not agree on the repeal of discriminating duties on merchandise, it suited better the commercial policy of this country to countervail our additional duty on merchandise imported in foreign vessels by a tonnage duty than in any other manner.
Their proposal was that no discriminating duties should be laid in either country on any species of merchandise imported directly from the other country in vessels of that country. From the moment we saw that the colonies would not be included in the arrangement, we insisted that the stipulation should embrace only the products and manufactures of both countries. The reasons urged on both sides will be found in the official note of the Dutch commissioners of the 13th September and in our reply of the 18th. Although their proposal was inadmissible to its full extent, there is considerable force in the argument drawn from the geographical situation of the Netherlands, so far as it applies to that part of Germany and Switzerland of which Holland and Antwerp may be considered as the natural seaports. And Congress seems to have countenanced the distinction by the expressions used in the 1st Section of the Act of March 1, 1817. We would have been disposed to listen to the proposal if it had been thus limited, and in case we could have obtained the admission of American vessels in the Dutch East Indies on acceptable terms. But although we stated explicitly the effect which such stipulation, if extended to the products and manufactures of France, England, and other maritime powers, would have on our commercial relations with them, we could not induce the King’s commissioners to restrict their proposal. They always repeated that restrictions as to the origin of merchandise were inadmissible, because they could not be executed.
Seeing that there was no prospect of concluding an arrangement on any of the points on which we were instructed, we did not think it eligible to sign a treaty merely extending that of 1782 to Belgium and Louisiana, as that was not a subject contemplated by our instructions, and as it would besides have been embarrassed by the proposed declaration. In order to terminate the negotiations in the most friendly manner, we proposed, and it was agreed, that they should remain suspended for the present, and that the whole subject should be referred to the two governments.
If we could venture an opinion on the arrangements which might hereafter be made with this country, we would say that it is not probable that we can be admitted in the East Indies on a better footing than the most favored nations; and that with respect to the repeal of discriminating duties, this government will at least insist that that repeal should apply to the manufactures not only of the Netherlands, but also of Germany and Switzerland.
We must not omit to state that during the conferences the Dutch commissioners repeatedly complained of our continuing those discriminating duties, whilst they had repealed theirs. They said that having repealed an ancient additional duty on articles imported generally from America, and known under the name of recognition, their ministers at Washington had in vain applied for a repeal of our additional duties, although their demand was founded both on the Act of Congress of 3d March, 1815, and on their claim, derived from the treaty of 1782, to be placed on the same footing with the English; and that the King having directed that the extra tonnage duty laid on foreign vessels by a law of October, 1816, should not be required from American vessels, we had not in the United States adopted a similar measure towards the vessels of the Netherlands. To this last observation we replied that there had not been yet time to hear from America on the subject, and that our government had doubtless expected that it would be definitely arranged in the course of our negotiations. We were not acquainted with the former applications said to have been made by their ministers; and we only observed that for the execution of an Act of Congress our Executive was responsible to his country, and not to any foreign nation; that if they claimed under the convention with Great Britain they must grant the same privileges which she had allowed, one of which was the admission in the East India possessions, defined in such manner as not to render it altogether nominal.
It must be, however, admitted that the fact which they alleged of the repeal of the tonnage duty on their part is true; and we regretted that it was not in our power to state that this measure had been met by a corresponding repeal on the part of our government. We submit it to the consideration of the President whether our discriminating duties ought not, under existing circumstances, to be repealed with respect to vessels of the Netherlands, and whether that repeal should not have a retrospective effect to the time when the extra tonnage duty ceased to be required here from American vessels. Independent of other reasons, the mutual repeal is at this time clearly in our favor, since the number of American vessels which enter the ports of the Netherlands is much greater than that of Dutch vessels which enter the ports of the United States. Although the King’s commissioners refused to accede to a treaty stipulation which should limit the repeal of discriminating duties to the products and manufactures of both countries, it is probable that such a repeal, together with that of the tonnage duty, being conformable to the Act of Congress and to our convention with Great Britain, would at present satisfy this government, and prevent their again imposing their extra tonnage duties on American vessels. But from the repeated declaration of the commissioners in the course of the negotiations, we do not believe, whatever might have been previously the case, that the repeal of our tonnage duties alone would now be thought sufficient.
For further details we beg leave to refer to the enclosed copies of the protocols of conferences and of the correspondence between the King’s commissioners and ourselves.
We have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servants.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 8th October, 1817.
In conformity with my letter of 10th July last, I left this place for the Netherlands on the 19th of July. On my arrival at Bruxelles I found that the King had determined that the negotiations should be carried on at the Hague. Had this decision been made sooner, I would have postponed my journey till the month of October, at which time only the Court and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were to remove from Bruxelles to the Hague. We concluded that the object of our mission would be promoted by holding previous conferences with Baron de Nagel, as a free communication of what we had in view would enable him to give sufficient instructions to the negotiators. These interviews, together with the usual presentations, detained us several weeks at Bruxelles. We afterwards proceeded to the Hague, and closed our conferences on the 20th of September. On the 22d, our despatches having been completed on that day, I left the Hague, and arrived here the 29th, in the evening.
GALLATIN TO EUSTIS, United States Minister at the Netherlands.
Paris, 9th October, 1817.
The long letter of Messrs. Goldberg and Vanderkemp of 30th September last would not seem, viewing its date, manner, or contents, to require any direct answer. But I agree with you that in order to prevent or correct erroneous impressions it is necessary that you should take notice of it in letter or conversation with Baron de Nagel. Almost every point had been discussed or explained in the conferences, and as what was said on the occasion, being in French, must be more within my recollection than yours, I will repeat in substance the explanations which were thus given.
On the subject of their complaints that our government had not repealed the discriminating duties when they had been repealed in the Netherlands, we observed that the nature of the application, said to have been made in 1815 by Mr. Ten Cate after the old recognition duty of Holland had been repealed, was unknown to us, but that we presumed that he had not been able to assure our government that all extra duties, general or local, were thus repealed in the Netherlands, and that with respect to the administrative measure by which American vessels were exempted from the extra tonnage duty laid by the law of October, 1816, as that fact could not have been known at Washington till after our appointment to treat on that very subject, our government must have necessarily waited for the result of the negotiations before they would act upon it. In reply to the remark that the Act of Congress of March, 1815, had not, in that instance, been carried into effect, it was observed that for the execution of the laws of the United States the President was answerable to his country, and not to any foreign nation; to which observation the Dutch plenipotentiaries acceded. When they alluded to our convention with Great Britain and to their right of being placed on the footing of the most favored nations, we stated that Holland in order to be entitled to the same privileges with Great Britain must give the same advantages, one of which was the admission in the East India possessions without equivalent. The two last observations were made only to repel the demand of the repeal of discriminating duties as a matter of right, and were accompanied by explicit declarations of the disposition of our government, either by treaty or otherwise, to treat Dutch vessels in the United States as favorably as American vessels were treated in the Netherlands.
The complaint that we had not extended the provisions of the treaty of 1782 to Louisiana is the more extraordinary, as not only had the proposal to make this one of the conditions of the new treaty come from ourselves, but we had with perfect candor explicitly stated to Messrs. Goldberg and Vanderkemp that, in point of fact, the Dutch vessels had, from the time when we had acquired Louisiana, been treated there as favorably as in any other part of the United States, and that, on account of our institutions, this would continue to be the case even if there was no new treaty. We told them at the same time that we knew that considerations of a similar nature would produce the same effect with respect to Belgium, and that we had no doubt that our vessels without any new stipulations would be admitted there on the same terms as in Holland.
We did not attempt to answer the arguments which in the conferences and in their official note the Dutch plenipotentiaries adduced to prove that the geographical situation of Holland forbade their agreeing to a repeal of the discriminating duties limited to the products and manufactures of the two countries. Presuming that they were the best judges of the interest of their country, we thought it sufficient to state on our part the reasons which prevented the United States from agreeing to the stipulation on that subject in the manner proposed by the Netherlands. It would have been more decorous in those gentlemen, particularly considering the date of their letter, to have pursued the same course, and not to have attempted to prove that their proposal would not produce the inequalities and inconveniences which we had stated. Their observations, besides, had been made, discussed, and refuted during the conferences. They had been told that the expense of inland transportation of German goods to Amsterdam had no connection whatever with the subject; that that expense was the same for the citizens of the United States or for the inhabitants of Holland; that the American merchant could not import the calicoes of Switzerland without paying that inland expense of transportation; that those goods delivered at Amsterdam cost the same price to both Americans or Dutchmen; and that, therefore, the merchants of Holland would be able, according to the proposed stipulation, to bring to the United States German goods exactly on the same terms as the American merchants, whilst, as we had clearly stated, the American merchants could not bring to Holland articles not the produce of the United States without paying a double freight, which the Dutch merchants were not compelled to pay, since they could import those articles directly from the place where they grew. We added that the only species of foreign merchandise which from particular circumstances we might, perhaps, be able to import in common times, though loaded with that double freight, were the tea and other products of China; and that those, tea-company or other similar internal regulations would interfere so as to prevent our sales. To the observation that in point of fact we did actually continue to import foreign articles in the Netherlands, we replied that this was owing to temporary circumstances, and that the whole negotiation was grounded on the expectation of a speedy revival of the maritime commerce of Holland; in which case circuitous importations never could be made on equal terms with direct ones.
When at the last conference the subject of lands owned by inhabitants of Holland in the United States was brought forward, we stated, 1st, that we considered that subject as belonging more immediately to the States’ authorities, and that the stipulations entered in some of our former treaties, which were no longer in force, had been found inconvenient, and had not been renewed; 2dly, that, by the general law of the land, aliens could not in the United States acquire or own land; that it was by virtue of certain special laws of the States of New York and Pennsylvania that aliens had been permitted to purchase, and that inhabitants of Holland had actually purchased, lands; that those laws were from the beginning expressly limited to a number of years, which had now expired; that the foreign purchasers knew that limitation when they made the purchase, and they were now precisely in the same situation as citizens of the United States, who could no more than the members of the Holland company sell the lands they owned to foreigners.
On a review of the letter of the 30th of September, I find that the only point which was not fully discussed, although it was once mentioned in the conferences, relates to our high duties on importations. I have not received a single document relative to the subject of a date subsequent to the peace. But my knowledge of details previous to the war and some general facts of a subsequent date enable me to say that neither can our duties, a few articles excepted, be considered as amounting to a prohibition, nor is the diminution of our consumption of some articles, the produce of Holland, to be principally ascribed to those duties. It is a notorious fact that, notwithstanding those duties, we consume, in proportion to our population, a greater quantity of foreign manufactures than any other nation. The duties received in 1816 have exceeded 36 millions of dollars. We have been overwhelmed with importations of foreign linens and cloth and cotton goods, to the destruction of many of our own new manufactures. If the linens and the cloth of the Netherlands have not been imported, it must certainly be due to other causes than the duties. Two articles which were mentioned in the conferences, madder and thread or silk laces, pay the lowest rate of duty,—7½ per cent. ad valorem. It would not be astonishing that the consumption of foreign cheese and spirits distilled from grain should have been lessened in America: it is more extraordinary that any should still be imported, considering the price of land, of cattle, and of rye and barley. If a sensible diminution has taken place, it is owing to the great improvements made during the last twenty years in the United States in the manufacture of cheese and of spirits. The consumption of Dutch cheese and gin is a mere matter of fancy and luxury, which is not much arrested by the duties; and I doubt altogether the assertion that it has been lessened. The fact certainly was not so a few years ago, before the decrees of Bonaparte and the orders in council interrupted the natural course of commerce. But it must be acknowledged that Holland has, in one respect, some right to complain, although the plenipotentiaries have not mentioned the fact in their letter. We have laid a duty of four to five cents more per gallon on spirits distilled from grain than on rum or brandy. This extra duty, which falls exclusively on Holland gin, is not wanted for the protection of our distilleries, and is doubly unjust, as the duty is specific, and gin is the cheapest of all spirits.
All this is for yourself. What objects your communication to Mr. de Nagel should embrace you are the best judge. But I think that it should be in writing, and that, whilst you animadvert on the manner and arguments of the last letter, it must not be forgotten that the maritime poverty of Holland does for the present give, in all negotiations, an advantage to its government over ours. They care but little for our extra duties, so long as one hundred American vessels visit their ports for one from the Netherlands that enters ours.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 10th October, 1817.
In the last conference held at the Hague, the plenipotentiaries of the Netherlands said that probably they would address another note to us, principally for the purpose of giving us a clear statement of their laws and regulations now in force with respect to our trade both with the kingdom in Europe and with the Dutch colonies. We observed that this course, during the suspension of the conferences, was not regular, and that we would be separated and could not make any official answer. They assured us that what they intended to write would require no answer from us.
On the 30th of September they addressed a letter to us, which was delivered to Mr. Eustis, and which is far from according with our understanding on the subject. I enclose a copy of it, and also copies of Mr. Eustis’s letter to me and of my answer.
I have, &c.
CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN.
Washington, 27th October, 1817.
My dear Sir,—
Your interesting letter of the1 has been received in due time.
The views which it presents in relation to the country where you reside, as well as to this, are highly interesting.
I see that the question of further reducing the allied forces in France has been agitated, and said to be decided in the negative. It is said in the newspapers that this decision has been the result of the representations of the Duke of Wellington, who is made to say that any further reduction of that force would render it unequal to the maintenance of the Bourbons on the throne.
I am by no means disposed to question the correctness of this opinion, but the policy of keeping any monarch upon a throne for an indefinite series of years by means of a foreign military force, when there is no competitor for that throne, may well be questioned. It appears to me that the retention of this force within the limits and at the expense of France, on the plea that it is necessary to the preservation of the monarch, cannot fail to increase and prolong that necessity. So far as the restoration of confidence between the King and people is desirable, it would be much better to place this delicate question upon the explicit ground of conventional rights, than to make the safety of the King to depend upon the oppression of the kingdom by a foreign force. If this ground has been assumed and avowed, it will be difficult to convince the nation of the sincerity of the exertions of the King to rid them of so heavy a burden, of so shameful a yoke.
I am inclined to the opinion you have expressed, that during the lifetime of the King no effort will be made by the nation to expel him from the throne; but the moment of his death will be the period of new convulsions. I most sincerely hope he may outlive the residence of the allied troops in France. If new efforts are to be made for the preservation of some of the good fruit of the revolution, I wish they may be made under the happiest auspices. I see that, at the opening of the session of the Legislature in 1815, the members of the blood royal, including the Duke of Orleans, took their seats in the House of Peers. I see that the Duke precipitately left France a short time after having taken his seat. I presume his retreat was the result of orders from the King. Did the other members of the royal family withdraw from their seats at the same time? Cannot you procure me a copy of the suppressed and, I presume, the last number of the Causeur?
The accruing revenue from the customs for the present year will exceed eighteen millions. We have purchased and redeemed about fifteen millions of the public debt since the first day of January. The redemption of the Louisiana debt is all that can be effected before the year 1825, unless Congress shall direct the redemption of the five per cent. stock subscribed to the bank, or permit the commissioners to purchase the debt at its current value. Unless one or both of these ideas are acted upon, there will be a surplus in the sinking fund annually of more than five millions of dollars from the year 1819, when the Louisiana debt will be discharged, until the year 1825, besides a general surplus of nearly the same amount if no reduction is made in the revenue by Congress. There is now in the Treasury upwards of six millions, which will probably be increased to nearly eight by the first day of January, 1818. With this amount in the Treasury, we could pay off the whole of the Louisiana debt next year, if the terms of the convention will permit it; but there is no doubt of our right to pay it off during the year 1819.
If, then, we do not involve ourselves in a Spanish war, we shall have a superabundance of revenue, unless we engage extensively in a system of internal improvements. I do not know whether Mr. Monroe entertains the constitutional scruples which governed Mr. Madison in the rejection of the bill on that subject on the 3d day of March last. That bill, as you observe, was bad enough; so bad that I did not wish it to pass. I presume the subject will be renewed during the next session, and trust that it will assume a form less objectionable than the one rejected by Mr. Madison. If nothing of this kind takes place, the internal taxes will be repealed. Indeed, I am by no means certain that the adoption of an extensive system of internal improvements will save the internal taxes. The sales of the public lands are increasing with a rapidity wholly unexampled. After the present year they may be safely set down at $3,000,000; but until the Yazoo stock is absorbed not more than half that amount will go into the Treasury. The sales in the Alabama Territory during the next year will probably absorb the greatest part of the Mississippi stock. The last payment to the State of Georgia is now ready to be made.
From this view of the Treasury operations you will perceive we are on the brink of the enviable situation which Mr. Jefferson supposed us to be in about the close of his Presidential career, viz., of finding out new objects of expenditure, or of reducing the revenue to that at present authorized by law.
I wish I could say as much in relation to other views which may be taken of the political state of the country. The War Department is not yet filled. It has been offered to Mr. Lowndes and declined. Mr. Calhoun’s answer to the offer which has been made of it to him is daily expected. Should he decline, it will be tendered to Judge Johnston, of the same State, who it is supposed will accept it.
The President’s tour through the East has produced something like a political jubilee. They were in the land of steady habits, at least for the time, “all Federalists, all Republicans.” If the bondmen and bondwomen were not set free, and individual debts released, a general absolution of political sins seems to have been mutually agreed upon. Whether the parties will not relapse on the approach of their spring elections in Massachusetts can only be determined by the event.
In this world there seems to be nothing free from alloy. Whilst the President is lauded for the good he has done in the East by having softened party asperity and by the apparent reconciliation which for the moment seems to have been effected between materials the most heterogeneous, the restless, the carping, the malevolent men in the Ancient Dominion are ready to denounce him for his apparent acquiescence in the seeming man-worship with which he was venerated by the wise men of the East.
Seriously, I think the President has lost as much as he has gained by this tour, at least in popularity. In health, however, he seems to have been a great gainer.
The papers will give you the result of the Pennsylvania election of governor: it is not considered brilliant. Should that State fall into the hands of the Quids and Feds, De Witt Clinton enters the list this time three years with Mr. Monroe. The change is certainly possible.
Mr. Clay has spent the summer in the city with his family. It is said, and with an air of probability, that the City Gazette, which is now a daily paper, is to be under his control. If this is the fact, the Administration or some of its members must look out against squalls.
Whether the new Secretary of State is aware of the connection which Mr. Clay is supposed to have with this paper, I know not; but it is certainly a fact that he has given to the editor the publication of the laws. This measure may ward off the blow some time, if any was intended against him.
I presume Mr. Clay, if he has formed this connection, has not definitively arranged his mode of operation. His plan will probably be to assail the strongest as soon as he discovers him. Whether his shafts will be directed against Massachusetts or New York, or elsewhere, will depend upon circumstances yet to be developed.
I wish most sincerely that the present state of political feeling was less auspicious to this kind of adventure. We must, however, content ourselves with things as they are.
Mr. Clay has announced his determination to bring the recognition of the new state of Buenos Ayres before Congress. He will, I presume, connect his popularity with this question. Although it is strictly of an Executive nature, and seems hardly susceptible of being brought within the legislative competence of Congress, I believe the course contemplated by Mr. Clay will not be unacceptable to a part of the Cabinet at least. For myself, I would rather see the House of Representatives employed upon subjects which are strictly within their constitutional powers. That branch of the Legislature, when headed by turbulent and able men who are adverse to the Executive Magistrate, will be strongly impelled to trench upon the Executive powers.
I do not believe there is any danger of anything of this nature at this moment; but a precedent may be set on this occasion which may in the end do much mischief.
Present my respects to Mrs. Gallatin and the other members of your family, and believe me to be, most sincerely, your friend, &c.
[1 ]This note is printed in American State Papers, v. 289 (Foreign Relations).
[1 ]None of Mr. Gallatin’s letters to Mr. Crawford have been recovered.