Front Page Titles (by Subject) GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS. - 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 J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, August 10, 1818.
The authentic account of the capture of Pensacola made here a strong and general impression. Such an event would hardly have been noticed some years ago, but at this moment of general peace an act of hostility, which might be considered by the other party as actual war, could not fail to attract general attention. Not knowing whether that act would be disavowed or justified by my government, all I could do was to try to soften the first impression, with the view of preventing, as far as practicable, any immediate commitment of opinion on the part of some of the allied powers, or any sudden inconsiderate act of retaliation on the part of Spain. To the ministers of those powers who have most influence over her I said that, although wholly uninstructed on the subject and knowing the event only through the channel of the newspapers, I could assert that it had not been anticipated by the government of the United States, and that no instructions had been given directing General Jackson to take forcible possession of the place; that such, however, might have been the conduct of Spain with respect to our Indian enemies as to have rendered the occupation of Pensacola necessary; and that she was bound by treaty to restrain by force the Indians within her territory from committing hostilities against our citizens, an engagement which she had failed altogether to fulfil. Besides making these verbal observations, I transmitted to the Duke de Richelieu copies of the President’s message of the 25th of March last, and of the 5th Article of our treaty with Spain. In a conference which I had with him on the 7th instant, we entered at large on the subject both of our affairs generally with Spain and of the questions connected with her colonies. He expressed much grief and astonishment at the capture of Pensacola; but his language was moderate and friendly. He dwelt on the importance of a speedy amicable arrangement of all our differences with that country, and on the interest that France took in the subject; and alluded to the advice which had been given to Spain in that respect. He then added that he thought, however, our pretensions in regard to our western boundary exaggerated, and our demands for spoliations too hard on Spain, considering her dependent situation when they took place. He seemed to consider La Salle’s settlement in Bay St. Bernard as the result of accident, and to be of opinion that any claim derived from it had been virtually abandoned by the long acquiescence of France in the Spanish establishments in the province of the Texas; but he made no observations on the subject of the eastern boundary of Louisiana as claimed by us. I stated briefly in answer the general grounds on which our demands were founded, and referred him for more details to your late correspondence with Mr. Onis, of which he had only seen partial extracts, and which I promised to send him entire. Knowing what had formerly been communicated by Mr. Roth on the subject of the eastern boundary, I said, notwithstanding the Duke’s silence in that respect, that we considered our claim in that quarter as so unquestionable that it would be useless to urge again the opposite pretensions of Spain I then observed that most of the topics of discussion would, in the case of the cession of Florida to us, be merged in the single question of the western boundary; that we would never abandon our right to any part of the territory described in Crozat’s charter,—that is to say, of that situated on any of the waters emptying into the Mississippi or Missouri,—and that as to the territory south of the Red River and bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, there could be no difficulty if Spain was sincerely disposed to make an arrangement with us in fixing a boundary convenient to both parties. Although the Sabine was mentioned in the letter of the Department of State to me of the 1st of June, 1816, I thought it premature to give any expectation that a boundary so near to our settlements would be accepted. My wish was only, by simplifying the question, to fix the attention on a single point, which France, if really anxious to promote an arrangement, might press on Spain. It is necessary to observe that, notwithstanding the contents of that letter, I had never before thought it convenient to discuss with this government the subject of our Spanish relations. With the knowledge of the personal political bias which exists here towards Spain, I thought it best to wait until they should open the subject. And, to prevent any mistake on the object of the conversation, I asked whether Spain had applied to France for her mediation, stating explicitly that, whilst we were disposed to give her as a common friend frank and full communications of our views, the mediation of no foreign power, not even of France, could be accepted. He disclaimed any intention of offering it, but acknowledged that Spain had lately applied for the good offices of France, and particularly wished her to give explanations on some points, which he left me to presume were those to which he had alluded. I told him that the best office that France could render Spain would be not to encourage her in her pretensions, and to urge the importance to her of an early arrangement. He said she did not always listen to advice; complained of her conduct in several respects; and said that he had written the day before to know why they had given him to understand that the negotiations were now carried on at Madrid, which, from my total ignorance, he must presume not to be fact. Although, as far as can be judged from appearances, France is in earnest to promote an arrangement, it is consistent with that plan to induce to lower our pretensions, and, although I have tried to discourage the attempt, she may perhaps think herself under the necessity of making some representations through her minister at Washington. Her great object in what she may do will be to serve Spain, and the knowledge and fear of our influence in the affairs of the Spanish colonies are the principal motives of her interfering in any respect. On the subject of the proposed mediation between Spain and her colonies, the Duke de Richelieu said that nothing positive was done, and that, in his opinion, nothing efficient could be done without us; he wished, therefore, to know what were our views in that respect. I answered that, nothing having been communicated to our government by any of the powers concerned in the mediation, no official communication could be expected from us; that whenever the allied powers, or any of them, should think proper to state their views on that subject, the overture would be met with a corresponding frankness; and that it appeared desirable in every respect that such free and mutual communications should take place. In the mean while, it was due to candor to say that, so far as I was able to judge, no expectation could be entertained that the United States would become parties in the proposed mediation, much less that they would accede to any measures having for object the restoration of the supremacy of Spain over the colonies which had thrown off her yoke. I added that it was understood that the allied powers did not intend to use force in order to compel the parties to accept their mediation, and that it appeared to me alike impracticable to obtain the consent of Spain to such liberal basis as it was intended to propose, and to persuade the inhabitants of the colonies to trust her and place themselves at her mercy. The Duke dwelt on the want of union among the insurgents, on their factions and weakness, on their unfitness for liberty, and on their incapacity of forming any permanent government whatever; he then suggested that if some prince of the Spanish family (the son of the ci-devant Queen of Etruria was mentioned) was sent over to America as an independent monarch, it might reconcile the inhabitants and be consistent with our views. I answered that on that last point my government alone could decide; that with the form of government which suited the colonies, or which any of them might select, we had nothing to do; that it was only to the preservation of their independence that I had alluded; and that it appeared to me doubtful whether a Spanish prince would be considered as securing that. As to the capacity of the colonists to form a government sufficient to carry on their business and to entertain foreign relations, I expressed my astonishment that any doubt could exist on that point, and mentioned San Domingo as a proof that even slaves could establish governments of their own, totally independent, at least of their masters. If there was any chance that Spanish America could be kept much longer under the dominion of Spain, why did she not do at once, where she was still in possession, that which was to be offered by the mediators to the insurgent colonies? No mediation was required for that; and nothing prevented her from opening the commerce of Cuba, Mexico, and Peru, from introducing in these, the three most productive and important of her colonies, all the improved administration, all the liberal laws and institutions, which were held out as the basis of the mediation. To these last observations the Duke of Richelieu seemed to assent, and to blame Spain for not pursuing a wiser course. But, after all, they cannot yet here reconcile themselves to the general and unavoidable emancipation of America. I had, at the request of the Russian minister, an interview with him yesterday, which embraced the same topics and had nearly the same aspect. This is not astonishing, considering the intimacy which exists between Russia and France, and more particularly between this Cabinet and Pozzo. (Of this I cannot give a better proof than by stating that he had read the whole of the correspondence of Mr. Hyde de Neuville with this government. It is, by the by, friendly to us, and has made a favorable impression here.) Still, there were some differences and additions. Pozzo still insists that our negotiation has been renewed at Madrid. He said that there were difficulties in our obtaining Florida, but did not explain whether they came from Spain, England, or his own Court. He considered the plan of sending a Spanish prince to America as chimerical; complained bitterly of the folly of Spain, and appeared to me to have almost abandoned the hope that a mediation would be agreed on. On the subject of Pensacola he expressed himself in the same manner as the Duke of Richelieu, and assured me positively that Russia had earnestly urged Spain to conclude an arrangement with us.
I think, upon the whole, that the dispositions of the European continental powers continue to be favorable to us. But Spain will make a great clamor, and I fear that the capture of Pensacola will at least impair the chance we had of acquiring Florida by treaty, and of settling all our differences with Spain. I earnestly wish that I may be mistaken. The most dangerous consequence would be the use which England may make of that event to regain her influence over Spain. She has tried to play a deep game to detach her from her other connections, and has heretofore made use of the negotiations with Portugal for that purpose. These, owing to that cause and the habitual folly of Spain, are not yet brought to a close, and do not seem more advanced than they were six months ago. Notwithstanding these appearances, and although some of the negotiators think otherwise, I am still of opinion that some kind of convention will finally be made.
I have the honor, &c.
P.S.—In the course of the negotiations between Portugal and Spain, an article had been proposed by the first purporting that she would be authorized to maintain her neutrality between Spain and her insurgent colonies. To this Spain decidedly objected, and was supported by all the mediators but one. When the vote had been taken, the British ambassador solemnly protested against it, and declared that his Court could not agree to any plan in which this provision was omitted. This incident is the most serious of the obstacles to the negotiation.