Front Page Titles (by Subject) GALLATIN AND EUSTIS TO J. Q. ADAMS, Secretary of State. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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GALLATIN AND EUSTIS TO J. Q. ADAMS, Secretary of State. - 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 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.