Front Page Titles (by Subject) CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN. - 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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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.