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, 5th November, 1818.
On my arrival here from London on the 27th ult., I found your letter of the 20th of August last, No. 9, and have since been engaged in collecting such information as might enable me to give a satisfactory answer to your inquiry.
With the previous views and feelings of this government I was well acquainted, but their conduct, and indeed that of Spain, in the case to which you allude, may be materially affected by the result of the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle on the subject of the Spanish colonies. To that point my inquiries have been principally directed; and, although the absence of the Duke de Richelieu and of the Russian minister at this Court has deprived me of my most direct and best means of information, I have reason to believe that the following statement is nearly correct.
Austria and Prussia dislike any mediation or any direct interference. Russia and France press that or any other measure which, without committing them too far, may be favorable to the views of Spain. England is averse to a joint mediation, but does not wish to appear to be the cause of its not being offered. The consequence of their different views is that nothing has as yet been done; and it is generally believed even by Mr. Hauterive, who has the Department of Foreign Affairs during the absence of the Duke of Richelieu, that no formal offer of mediation will be made. But some vote expressive of the wishes of the allied powers may be entered on the protocol, which will be communicated to Spain, and perhaps be published.
With respect to this government, connected as it is with Spain by political considerations and family ties, alarmed as it feels—and this alarm has not been at all concealed from me—at the appearance of anything that seems connected with revolutionary principles, it cannot be doubted that the recognition of the independence of any of the Spanish colonies will be viewed most unfavorably, and will affect our standing, if not our relations, with this Court. It must be observed that although this government is in many respects a constitutional monarchy, it is not so in the sense in which we generally understand it, so far as relates to the executive branch. The feelings and opinions of the King have a far greater influence, particularly over his ministers, than in England. With the nation at large we are favorites; the ministers are perfectly aware of our political importance and growing power; and these considerations have their weight even with the Court. Notwithstanding those recollections which connect our Revolution with that of France, and although our republican institutions excite apprehension, we are certainly considered, even by those who detest them most, as a regular and, to use their fashionable designation, as a legitimate government. But our public recognition of the independence of an insurgent colony will shock all their feelings and prejudices.
I thought that the best mode to ward off any effect from that cause, unfavorable to our interest, was to prepare them for the event, and to anticipate that which, from the former proceedings of Congress, appeared probable. I had upon every occasion stated that the general opinion of the people of the United States must irresistibly lead to such a recognition; that it was a question not of interest but of feeling; and that this arose much less from the wish of seeing new republics established than that of the emancipation of Spanish America from Europe. That emancipation was ultimately unavoidable, the charm that had kept that country so long in subjection being now broken, and those colonies being with respect to territory and population out of all proportion with Spain. We had not either directly or indirectly excited the insurrection. It had been the spontaneous act of the inhabitants, and the natural effect of causes which neither the United States nor Europe could have controlled. We had lent no assistance to either party; we had preserved and intended to preserve a strict neutrality. But no European government could be surprised or displeased that in such a cause our wishes should be in favor of the success of the colonies, or that we should treat as independent powers those amongst them which had in fact established their independence. These sentiments I had expressed in England and in France to the ministers of those and of the other European powers with whom the opportunity offered to discuss the subject; amongst others I had a long conversation with Lord Castlereagh, and since my return here I have repeated them to Mr. Hauterive, with a request that he would communicate them, as my decided opinion, to the Duke de Richelieu at Aix-la-Chapelle. I need hardly add that these declarations were made without committing my government, without pretending to know its intentions in that respect, but as arising from an intimate conviction that the event (our recognition of the independence of Buenos Ayres) must necessarily take place at no very distant period. In my last conversation with Mr. Hauterive I stated it as probable that it could not be delayed beyond this ensuing session of Congress.
Mr. Hauterive expressed his great sorrow at such intimation, and some surprise that this recognition should be so near at hand. Yet he acknowledged that the Duke de Richelieu was in some degree prepared for it, though not so immediately, not only from my former suggestions, but also from Mr. de Neuville’s correspondence and from a memoir prepared at the Duke’s request by Mr. Serurier, both of which corroborate my opinion on the subject. Without alluding to the feelings of France, he expatiated on our happy situation, on our future destinies, and on the want of sufficient motive for putting by a hasty step our certain prospects to any hazard. For if we intended, as I said, to preserve our neutrality, he could not perceive of what utility our nominal recognition could be to the colonies. He considered it also of great importance that the United States should to a certain extent be connected with the European system of politics. Their point of contact was the sea, and there they had been eminently useful to the general cause of social order and of civilization, by maintaining alone and preserving the maritime rights at the time they were crushed or abandoned everywhere else. He would see us with great regret raising in some degree the standard of America against Europe, and thereby enabling our only rival to excite a general jealousy against us. As to the proposed mediation, he said that he disliked it, since it would be unjust and impracticable to support it, as he termed it, by a crusade, and as the proffer of it as a purely friendly office had to him the appearance of an informal recognition of the colonies as independent powers. Yet, if something was not done in common, the whole subject would fall exclusively in the hands of Great Britain. But what else could, in his opinion, be done, unless it was to give some joint wholesome advice to the King of Spain, I could not understand.
I assured him that although the United States never could have joined in any plan having for its basis the return of the colonies to the supremacy of Spain, yet they would have been desirous of knowing with precision the views of the European powers and of communicating their own, in order that their respective measures might have diverged as little as comported with those views. But although it should have been evident that without the consent of the United States nothing efficient or durable could be done in America, they never had been consulted, nor till very lately, and that by England alone, any communication made to them of what was intended or wished on that subject by any of the European powers. Yet more than one year ago, and without having had time to receive instructions from my government, seeing a growing tendency here and in Russia to interfere between Spain and her colonies, I had conversed freely and with perfect candor both with the minister of Russia and with the Duke de Richelieu, deprecating the intended interference, and earnestly inviting a friendly communication of the views of both governments to my own. Nothing of the kind had been done; the course of events had not in the mean while been arrested; these had been favorable to the cause of the colonies; and Spain had done nothing tending to retard the decision of the United States. She had neither applied to Mexico or Peru, where she still had the power to do it without any mediation, those liberal measures calculated, as it was presumed in Europe, to reconcile the colonies to her government, nor taken any efficient steps to arrange her differences with ourselves to our satisfaction. Since there was no motive for the United States to act contrary to what was known everywhere to be the public national opinion, its decision must have been naturally expected. Still, it was extremely desirable that measures should not be adopted by the European powers which should be diametrically opposed to those which might be pursued by my government; and it was for that purpose that, anticipating, though without positive and official information, what these might be, I made this free, though unofficial, communication to him, in order that the sovereigns at Aix-la-Chapelle should not at least come to a final determination without knowing everything which might have some influence over it.
Mr. Hauterive said that he would certainly communicate immediately to the Duke de Richelieu what I had said; and I have no doubt but that he will also state it to the King. He took occasion, from my allusion to our own affairs with Spain, to say that, the powers of Mr. Erving having been found inefficient, the negotiation had again been transferred to Washington; that Onis had received full instructions to that effect, which instructions had been communicated to the French ambassador at Madrid; that they had been sent by Pizarro, and renewed since his dismission, and that he still hoped that they would lead to an arrangement which would prevent us from taking such decisive steps against Spain as the recognition of the independence of Buenos Ayres. He did not appear to me to be well informed with the nature of the instructions, as he seemed to think that a cession of Florida was not contemplated; but he said that although our claim to a western boundary was too extensive, Spain had been induced to yield considerably in that respect. I told him that I wished extremely, but really had no expectation, that Spain had given such instructions as would lead to an arrangement. He alluded, in decent terms, to the ignorance and stupidity of Ferdinand, but still thought, although it had taken place long before his having the temporary care of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and he had not examined the subject critically, that the efforts of France to induce that monarch to arrange the differences with us had succeeded.
I left, however, Mr. Hauterive under such an impression that the recognition was unavoidable, that he expressed a hope that we would give it a form such that it should not be an act of hostility against Spain. I answered that it would certainly be our wish that it should not be considered as such. I must acknowledge to you that this appears to me rather difficult, and that I think the weakness of Spain and the fear of the consequences of a war are the only motives which can induce her not to consider such declaration in any form whatever as an act of direct hostility.
But I am at the same time clearly of opinion that whatever course Spain may pursue, and however displeased this government may be with our conduct in that respect, France will not join with Spain in a war against us on that account, and that she will use her endeavors to prevent that country from engaging in it. I think that Russia will also be displeased, and will nevertheless unite with France in preventing a war. Whether Spain will be advised is a very different question, and on which I can give no opinion, that government having the habit to act contrary to its interests and to the expectations of its most sincere friends.
With respect to Great Britain, there is not, I believe, any danger of her joining at this time in a war against us. But I suspect that she would see one between us and Spain without regret. She has no objection to the independence of the colonies, particularly if she can enjoy its benefits without breaking with Spain or the other European powers, and if it is done at our expense. The greatest immediate inconvenience arising from a war between the United States and Spain will be to our commerce. This will be instantaneously assailed by privateers under Spanish commissions equipped and manned here, and particularly in England. Preparations to that effect were made twice last year when events created a belief that war was impending. Great Britain will not discourage it, as the difference in the rate of insurance will immediately give her shipping the preference over ours in the trade between the two countries, whilst under our convention, such is our superiority when placed on terms of equality, that of the vessels arrived at Liverpool from the United States during the first nine months of this year, three hundred were American and thirty English. That she has in some degree anticipated the contingency of such a war and its result may be conjectured from a circumstance in our late negotiation. We had inserted in our project an article (marked) which had always been heretofore introduced at her own wish, forbidding the subjects or citizens of either country to serve on board the armed vessels of the enemy of either; and this was altogether omitted in her counter-projet.
What might be the conduct of either of those powers in the event of a protracted war with Spain cannot be conjectured. My observations apply only to the immediate effects which may naturally be expected to follow a rupture. If a war with Spain shall not be the consequence of the intended recognition, the only inconveniences which I would apprehend in this quarter are such as may be expected from the unfriendly disposition created by that act. The desire, very sincere heretofore, that Spain should yield to our demands, and even to our wishes, would cease to exist; and the obstacles to the admission of our claims against this government, and even to commercial arrangements, would be increased. I am, however, very far from suggesting that the prospect, particularly on the subject of the claims, is now favorable.
I have already stated that the determination of the sovereigns at Aix-la-Chapelle will have an influence over the subsequent conduct of the several European powers. This determination will probably be known on the first of next month, and you may be made acquainted with it in the beginning of February. Whether it may be proper to wait till then before any decisive step is taken, it is for government to decide. The negotiations between Spain and Portugal have not yet been brought to a close. I understand that no definite answer has yet been given by Spain to a projet of arrangement approved by the mediators and assented to by Portugal.
I had forgotten to state, as a proof of the bias here in favor of Spain, that, although the Duke de Richelieu had assured me that France had no existing treaty of commerce with any nation, the provisions of the former ones with Spain, and which grant many special reciprocal favors, have, by orders from the Ministry, been again carried in effect, as if those treaties had never ceased to exist.
I have the honor, &c.