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1819: 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, 4th January, 1819.
I have not been able to obtain any further material information of what had passed at Aix-la-Chapelle on the subject of the Spanish colonies. So far as it goes, it corroborates the statement given in my former despatches. From an authentic source I hear that when it was proposed that the Duke of Wellington should go to Spain charged with joint powers from the five great allies, to act as mediator between her and the colonies, he (whether in his own or in the name of Great Britain I am not informed) made it preliminary, 1st, that Spain should renew her application for a mediation; 2dly, that the determination on the part of the allies not to use force should appear on the face of the act of mediation. It was then proposed by Russia and France that, if these preliminaries were agreed to, the allies should also bind themselves by a public act not to entertain any political or commercial relations with such of the insurgent colonies as might reject the proposals which would be ultimately agreed to by the mediators as a proper basis of reconciliation. This having been declared by Great Britain to be altogether inadmissible, the whole project was abandoned.
Yet from a conversation with Nesselrode, and from some other circumstances, I infer that some entry expressive of the wishes of the allies in favor of Spain has been made on the protocol, and that she has been advised to adopt of her own accord, with respect to the colonies which acknowledge her authority, those conciliatory measures which she had proposed as the basis of the intended mediation with the insurgent provinces. It appears also, as stated in my former despatch, to have been the intention of Spain to send the armament now preparing at Cadiz to Buenos Ayres, as the best means of preventing an invasion from Peru, and even with a hope that if that city, which is considered as the focus of the insurrection, was captured, the interior provinces of La Plata and Chili would soon return to their former allegiance. But this plan was founded on the previous surrender of Montevideo by the Portuguese; and this event is now indefinitely postponed, the negotiation which had been carried on here for more than twelve months between Portugal and Spain being altogether suspended, if not broken off, and Count Palmella having accordingly returned to England. On what point the negotiation ultimately broke off I have not yet been informed. The consequence, however, is that the Cadiz expedition is now destined for Chili and Peru; and the events of the opening campaign in Venezuela may again change that destination.
The President’s speech has been very well received; and the apparent determination to adhere to the line of conduct heretofore pursued with respect to the Spanish colonies is very agreeable to all the governments, particularly to Russia and to France. This was explicitly stated to me by Nesselrode. I think that my efforts in preventing the interference of the European powers have not been altogether useless; but the result is certainly due principally to Great Britain. The effects of her policy in that question begin to be understood, and many of the statesmen here regret that a similar course should not be adopted by France. But the simultaneous restoration of the two branches of the house of Bourbon to the thrones of France and Spain seems to have given new strength to family ties; and these appear to have more influence than consists with the commercial interests of this country, and prevent the adoption of a system of neutrality which would give France a share in the commerce of the Spanish colonies.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, January 19, 1819.
I had the honor to receive a few days ago, through Mr. Rush, your despatch to us of the 2d of November last.
The subject of the slave-trade was not even hinted at in the course of our negotiation. But I have been informed by Pozzo that the British ministers proposed at Aix-la-Chapelle a general agreement between the five great European powers, founded on the same basis which had been adopted in the several treaties of England with the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. It was explicitly declared by Richelieu that France would never subscribe any agreement which recognized the right of the public vessels of any nation to visit French vessels in time of peace. A similar declaration having been made by Russia and countenanced by Prussia, the plan was abandoned. I am also informed that one of many causes which prevented any general association against the Barbary powers was a jealousy of the naval preponderance of Great Britain, to which, in case of a maritime alliance, it was apprehended that the other powers must to a certain degree submit.
When the proposal of Great Britain that the agreement respecting impressment might be revoked at will by either party was mentioned by Lord Castlereagh, we immediately observed that this stipulation would be altogether unfavorable to the United States; that they would make an immediate sacrifice by excluding British seamen from their service; that this sacrifice would operate in favor of Great Britain, by increasing the expenses of our navigation, and thereby giving some comparative advantage to hers in the commerce between the two countries; and that it was extremely objectionable that the equivalent for which the United States were willing to make that sacrifice should not only be remote and contingent, but that the contingency should depend not merely on a renewal of the contemplated temporary agreement, but also on the will of Great Britain at any time whatever she might choose to notify it.
Lord Castlereagh expressed a great anxiety that an arrangement might be made on that difficult subject. It had been explicitly declared by our government that the United States would not be satisfied with a correction of the abuses in the practice; that an absolute suppression of the practice itself was on their part a sine qua non. As an equivalent, the non-employment of British seamen was offered, a stipulation to be enforced exclusively by our own laws. An agreement founded on that basis was, he said, so contrary to public opinion in England that it would be utterly impracticable to obtain public support for it unless it was accompanied by the stipulation which he had proposed. I understand, indeed, though not expressly stated, that without it the consent of the Cabinet could not be obtained. He added that this was the only motive for the proposed condition, and that it would be purely nominal if, as we believe and as he hoped, our laws proved efficient in carrying the agreement substantially into effect.
It being ascertained that the British government would not treat on the basis proposed by the United States without this reservation, which had not been anticipated and on which we had not been instructed, we did not feel ourselves justifiable in rejecting it altogether, and thought it desirable to obtain the whole British plan rather than to refer previously to our government the single question of the reserved power to annul the agreement. Some considerations, without removing altogether the objection, seemed also to lessen its weight. It was only in the case of Great Britain being engaged in war that there was any danger that she should avail herself of the right to dissolve the convention; and the probability was that this would expire by its own limitation before the contingency took place. The objection, in fact, applied with nearly as much force to the temporary nature of the agreement as to the right reserved to annul it. It was believed, as is suggested in your despatch, that if the arrangement was once made, the principle never could afterwards be altered and the practice of impressment be renewed. If Great Britain should, without having any just right to complain of our having violated the compact, dissolve it in time of war, after having enjoyed its advantages during the peace, it would be such a violent outrage as would unite the whole of our nation against any attempt on her part to resume the practice of impressment. Indeed, such a conduct on her part could not take place unless she intended to be at war with us; and in that case, other pretences for it would not be wanting if thought necessary.
It may also be the opinion of some persons that the stipulations being reciprocal is not without its advantages to the United States; that the exclusion of British seamen may prove more injurious to our navigation than has been anticipated, and that it may on that account become eligible to put an end to the agreement before it expires by its own limitation. I must acknowledge that I do not share that opinion, and that I believe the inconveniences, whatever they may be, to be less than those which must necessarily follow the practice of impressment, and that they are counterbalanced by the advantage resulting from having a navy purely national.
The stipulation appears, therefore, to me on the whole unfavorable to us; but I do not believe that there is at this time any probability of concluding an agreement unless we consent to that reservation.
You already know that our observations induced Lord Castlereagh to abandon the other condition, by which the commanders of British armed vessels would have had the right of examining our crews; and that it was not made a part of their official projet.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 19th February, 1819.
I had the honor to receive your despatches Nos. 10, 11, and 12. An indisposition which has confined me in my chamber for more than three weeks, and from which I am just recovering, has as yet prevented my using the arguments, contained in the first, in those quarters where it may be useful to remove unfavorable impressions; but I will not fail to attend to that subject whenever a convenient opportunity shall offer.
The agitation which took place here after the termination of the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, the subsequent change of ministry, and afterwards my indisposition, had prevented my renewing my application on the subject of American claims. Immediately after the receipt of your despatch No. 12, although it would have been desirable to have had a previous conversation with Marquis Dessolle, I thought it advisable, on the whole, to call his attention to the subject before the budget of this year was presented to the Chambers, and addressed to him the letter, of which a copy is enclosed.1 The British ambassador called on me more than a fortnight ago to communicate to me, at the request of Dessolle, the Spanish decree for putting to death all foreigners taken in arms under insurgent banners or carrying to them munitions of war. Both were extremely dissatisfied with it, and aware of the effect it might produce in England and in the United States. Strong representations would be immediately made against it by the French, and, it was expected, by the British government. Both, it was said, derived an additional right of doing it from the representations they had agreed to make to the United States on the subject of insurgent privateers.
I have also understood that this government had prevented the execution of a contract made at Bordeaux for supplying Spain with transports for the Cadiz expedition to America, from a fear that it would injure the commercial interests of the country in the insurgent colonies, and perhaps expose it to depredations on the high seas.
I have the honor, &c.
CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN.
Washington, 26th April, 1819.
It is so long since I have received a line from you that I am not entirely certain that you remember there is such a being in existence as myself. Mortifying as this declaration is to my feelings, I am constrained from various considerations to hazard the charge of intrusion by addressing you at this time.
Two days ago I addressed a letter to you, at the request of the president of the Bank of the United States, explaining in general terms the reasons which have rendered it desirable that an arrangement should be made by the bank with the holders of the Louisiana stock in Europe, by which the remittance of the principal of that stock, reimbursable on the 21st of October next, may be delayed until it can be effected with more convenience than at present. The bank contemplated originally the employment of Mr. Sheldon in effecting this arrangement; but when I mentioned the subject to Mr. Adams he objected to it, especially if compensation was to be attached to the service. Two days ago, however, he has informed me that he has no objection to his being employed and receiving a reasonable compensation. As, however, the first determination was communicated to the board, another person has been thought of, and possibly may be eventually employed.
If the board should ultimately fix upon Mr. Sheldon, I hope you will not only consent to his undertaking the execution of the trust, but that you will give him all the aid and assistance which can be afforded without inconvenience. It is a matter of the greatest importance that an arrangement should be effected, and as early as practicable. It is difficult to conceive of the distress which prevails in the commercial cities, resulting from the indispensable necessity to which the banks have been reduced to diminish their discounts.
This process has now been in operation for about nine months, and must be continued for some months longer. Every exertion has been made by the commercial and, indeed, every interest in the community, to meet the pressing demands of the banks, and so far very successfully; but there is just reason to apprehend that if these demands are extended much further a general delinquency will ensue, which will take from it all its odium. Whenever this shall happen, the collection of the revenue will be most seriously affected. If the remittance of two millions of dollars to Europe during the ensuing autumn cannot be avoided, the curtailments of the banks must be continued until that remittance is effected. The danger resulting to the collection of the revenue from the curtailment of bank discounts consequent upon the exportation of specie and the remittance of that part of the moiety of the Louisiana stock held in Europe which was redeemed on the 21st of October last, was foreseen, and a possible deficiency of the revenue suggested, in my annual report to Congress. No measure, however, founded upon that suggestion was introduced in either House during the late session.
As I did not calculate with much confidence that any deficiency would occur, I contented myself with having made the suggestion. Hitherto the collection of the revenue accruing upon merchandise and tonnage has furnished no reason to apprehend any deficiency. The amount of bonds which have been put in suit has not much exceeded—with the exception of the port of Norfolk—the sum ordinarily remaining unpaid; but concurrent representations from all parts of the Union lead me to apprehend that delinquencies to a great amount will occur in the course of the summer and autumn. The fall in the price of every article almost of exportation, and the commercial distress which is said to prevail in the commercial parts of Europe, will probably throw back upon this country an immense amount of bills which have been drawn in the ordinary course of business upon the credit of shipments made of those articles. If these bills should return at the moment when the drawers are making every exertion in their power to meet the demands of the banks,—rendered indispensable to preserve their credit,—something like a general bankruptcy is greatly to be apprehended. No event will have a more favorable influence upon the moneyed and fiscal operations of the nation than an arrangement by which the exportation of two millions of dollars, or the remittance of that sum in bills, can be avoided. It is on this account that I feel more than ordinary solicitude to interest you in the success of the attempt contemplated by the board of directors, which I have explained.
The remittances of the sums redeemed during the last autumn I believe are not yet completed. They have been made upon the most favorable terms, but exchange is every day becoming less favorable. The fall in the price of our principal staples will no doubt render it difficult to remit considerable sums after this period. It is even probable that the rate of exchange may become so unfavorable as to offer some temptation to the exportation of specie to Europe. If this should not be the case, it will be owing to very diminished importations of foreign merchandise during the present year.
The receipts from the public lands in the North-Western States and Territories will be much below those of the last year, owing to the impossibility of obtaining money which can be received at the land offices. How long this state of things will continue cannot be ascertained. Nothing can be more vexatious as long as it does continue.
From the files of the Intelligencer you will have discovered that the last session of Congress was not remarkably tranquil. The events of the Seminole war gave rise to a discussion in one House, and a report in the other, which has excited all the angry passions in the mind of the commanding general and his particular adherents. The deep interest which the President felt in the question was what saved the general from the censure of both Houses. The particular friends of the Secretary of State made the question a rallying-point; and, strange to tell, Clintonianism enlisted itself under the banners of the hero of New Orleans. The support of this party, like everything connected with it, had for its object a quid pro quo. Perhaps the support which he received from that quarter may be traced to the correspondence between Generals Scott and Jackson, which, like everything else in this country, has found its way into the gazettes. I am inclined to believe that the chiefs on both sides have been mutually deceived in their expectations of support. The general, however, has had the advantage, inasmuch as he has received an active support from the Clintonians in his Seminole war, and has repaid that support by insulting the Tammany men, in toasting the governor at a dinner given him in Tammany Hall. This in all probability is the only service which he will ever be able to render Mr. Clinton, and it is at least doubtful whether that has not been injurious to him. It is probable that General Lacock’s reply to the strictures upon the report of the committee of the Senate will produce a paper war, which will be protracted through the summer, and that the subject will be resumed in the Senate during the next session. Unless the changes in that body should be favorable to the general, the report of the last session will be approved. An attempt was indirectly made at the close of the last session to soften the censure contained in the report, by a resolution which was drawn up and shown to such members of the majority as were supposed to be most supple upon that subject; but no recruit was obtained, and the attempt was therefore abandoned.
The Bank of the United States has just determined not to receive from the government its own bills and those of its offices except at the places where they are payable. When tendered under such circumstances, they [are to be] credited to the Treasurer as special deposit until time is afforded the bank to transfer the specie from the issuing to the receiving office.
This determination, you will readily perceive, produces inconveniences and delay, which at this moment are extremely vexatious. It is a mere palliative to gain a little time, and cannot possibly decide the ultimate question of the capacity of the bank to continue specie payments.
Present my respects to Mrs. Gallatin and every member of your family, and believe me to be, with sentiments of the most sincere regard,
Your most obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 5th May, 1819.
. . . Marquis Dessolle informed me that the Spanish government had delayed for a considerable time to transmit to Onis the final instructions, by virtue of which the treaty was concluded, and which had been prepared by Yrujo’s predecessor. The determination was taken only after the failure of obtaining at Aix-la-Chapelle the mediation of the allied powers with the colonies, under a feeling of irritation against Great Britain as the author of the failure, and from a conviction that any attempt to subjugate by force was hopeless while the danger of a rupture with the United States continued to exist. I found both this government and the Spanish ambassador were under the impression that the treaty, if not by any positive stipulation at least by a tacit understanding, implied on our part an obligation not to recognize the independence of Buenos Ayres. I said that, whatever the cause might be, Congress had adjourned without agitating that question, and that Spain would have the opportunity during this summer to make with her grand expedition of Cadiz what every one must consider as her last effort. On the result would, it must be presumed, depend the course which not only the United States but other powers would pursue with respect to the colonies. The news of our treaty had probably contributed to the renewal of the negotiations between Spain and Portugal. Count Palmella returned here for that purpose as soon as it was known. Both parties are agreed that the boundary of Brazil shall be enlarged towards La Plata, as an indemnity for the expenses of the Montevideo expedition. But Portugal insists that it shall be precisely defined before that place is restored, and Spain wants to postpone the settlement. She declares that if not peaceably surrendered, Montevideo will be the first object of attack for her expedition. What will be the result I am less able to conjecture, as, for very natural reasons, the Portuguese ministers are less communicative than before our treaty.
Marquis Dessolle expressed great satisfaction with the conduct of Mr. Hyde de Neuville, and, although he was not prejudiced in his favor when he came in the Ministry, he spoke in the highest terms of the talents and wisdom he had displayed on the late occasion, and generally during the course of his mission.
I have the honor, &c.
P.S.—To prevent any misapprehension, and in justice to this government, I must say that it was not influenced by the result of the congress at Aix-la-Chapelle, and that its friendly offices with the Cabinet of Madrid had been interposed before that epoch. The instructions, afterwards detained, had been prepared by Pizarro and communicated to the French ambassador before the departure of the Duke de Richelieu for Aix-la-Chapelle. Their detention was not known to this Cabinet at the time of my conversation with Mr. Hauterive, mentioned in my despatch No. 86.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 24th May, 1819.
The Portuguese ambassador informs me that our treaty with Spain, having been laid before the Council of State at Madrid, had met in that body with a strong opposition; that they having adjourned without coming to a decision, the King, under an impression that their opinion would be against the ratification, had concluded to ratify the treaty without their sanction; but that at the date of the last advices at Madrid the ratification had not yet taken place. Mr. Dessolle says that the treaty had occasioned warm debates, but seems to entertain no doubt of the final ratification. The Spanish ambassador concurs in this opinion, notwithstanding the efforts which he states to have been made by the English to prevent the ratification. He considers the bill lately proposed in England to prevent the armaments in favor of the insurgents as the result of our treaty, and coming too late to produce any effect against its ratification. The Russian minister adds that if that measure had been adopted sooner by England it would have prevented the treaty. I had not heard myself from Mr. Forsyth nor from Mr. Erving subsequent to Mr. Forsyth’s arrival at Madrid. No progress has as yet been made in the negotiation between Spain and Portugal; and it seems to me that the mediators have no hope of succeeding in arranging the differences. But I think that they will prevent an actual rupture. In that case the Cadiz expedition must remain suspended, or be employed otherwise than in a direct expedition against Buenos Ayres.
I have the honor, &c.
P.S.—May 25. I received last night your despatch No. 14, of April 14, and will see Mr. Dessolle; but, as Mr. Forsyth has arrived at Cadiz on the 16th of last month, I presume that the question is by this time decided at Madrid. The letter from Mr. Hyde de Neuville to the French ambassador at that Court will, in connection with his general instructions, have produced nearly the same effect as anything which would be likely to come at this time from Mr. Dessolle. This government is at this time rather timid on subjects connected with their foreign relations.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 28th May, 1819.
I have conversed with the Marquis Dessolle on the subject of your despatch of April 14 last. He had received Onis’s declaration and all the necessary information from Mr. Hyde de Neuville. He, without any reserve, expressed himself to be of the same opinion with us on the subject; he said that, independent of the positive proofs of the understanding of the negotiators, such enormous grants made at such time were wholly inconsistent with the spirit of the treaty of cession. There was, he said, some difficulty arising from the favor enjoyed by the Duke d’Alagon; but, mad as was the government of Spain, it was morally impossible that our declaration on that point should prevent the ratification. I must observe that from the whole tenor of the conversation I inferred that this opinion was less the result of any direct information from Madrid than of his own view of the subject, and of a conversation between him and the ambassador of Spain.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, June 14, 1819.
Mr. Erving brought nothing decisive from Madrid, but corroborates the accounts already received. He thinks that the King is in favor of the ratification, and seems to be of opinion that it would ultimately take place.
Mr. Forsyth had delivered his letters of credence about the 18th of May, but on the 27th, the date of a letter from him to Mr. Lowndes, the question of ratification, independent of that which may arise from the grants of land, was not yet decided.
Mr. Dessolle says that opposition continues to be made by the favorites to whom grants have been made, and also by the Minister of Justice, Lozano; he also alluded to some want of confidence in Yrujo’s sincerity. The English opposition was, he said, carried on with great caution, if carried at all. Reports had, however, he added, been industriously circulated amongst several of the Cabinets of Europe that the United States had, subsequent to the treaty, made overtures to the British government for a recognition of the independence of Buenos Ayres; this he knew to be false, as I had at the time fully explained the circumstance, and that Mr. Rush’s communication was made in pursuance of instructions given after the failure of the negotiations of December, and when you had no expectation of their renewal. He repeated his opinion that the treaty would be ratified, and the fact that Onis had kept far within the limits of his instructions.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, July 3, 1819.
I transmitted in my despatch No. 100 the copy of the letter which I had addressed to Marquis Dessolle, on the 11th February last, on the subject of American claims in general, and more particularly of that of Messrs. Gracie and Parish.
On the 23d of March, in transmitting to the same minister a letter from Mr. Hyde de Neuville in behalf of Mr. Gracie, I reminded him of my preceding note, and requested that a report which the Director-General of the Douanes was shortly to make on the claim might be communicated to me before the Minister of Finances should decide upon it. This was the more important, as the director was known to be decidedly hostile to the claim, and to the restitution of any sum which had in any shape found its way to the public treasury.
My request was not complied with; but Mr. Parish still thought that the affair had taken a favorable turn, and, not expecting an immediate decision, left this city for Antwerp, and went thence on some business to England. From this last country he wrote to me a few days ago, and transmitted the enclosed copy of a letter addressed to him by the Minister of Finances, and by which he is informed that his claim is inadmissible.
The Minister’s letter is not less incorrect as to facts than weak in argument. The order to sell and to pay into the treasury the proceeds of the sales of sequestered property is not, and was not by the then existing government, considered as a condemnation.
When the vessels in question arrived at Antwerp, the only penalty for which they were liable for having touched in England was to be refused admission, and the only question was whether this exclusion should be enforced, or whether the consignees should be permitted to sell the cargoes. It was not at all by giving a retrospective effect to the Milan decree that the cargoes were sold. The sale took place about the same time that the property seized at St. Sebastian was sold; it was done by virtue of an order from government, distinct from the Rambouillet decree, and for which no motive was assigned. I have requested Mr. Parish’s lawyer to procure copies of the order of sale, and of that by which the money was paid into the public treasury instead of the caisse d’amortissement; for, although the substance of the orders is known, the text has not been communicated.
But, however easy it might be to answer the Minister’s letter, there would be some inconvenience in pursuing that course, or in prosecuting any farther Mr. Parish’s claim distinct from others of the same nature. I was, indeed, always averse to that discrimination, and did not share that gentleman’s hopes of success; but as he was very sanguine, and we had heretofore failed in obtaining relief, I could not resist his solicitation, especially after the receipt of your despatch No. 12.
The decision of the Minister of Finances, founded on the assumed principle that no redress remains when the money has been paid into the treasury and been expended, would apply with equal force to all the American claims. If it becomes necessary to combat seriously that doctrine, it will be better to do it generally and in a direct correspondence with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, than by answering a letter which is not addressed to me and applying my arguments to a single case. The self-love of the Minister of Finances would also be irritated by an exposure of his assertions; and we have already sufficient obstacles to encounter, without rendering the chance of success still more desperate.
I am still in hopes of receiving the instructions which I was led to expect from your despatch No. 12. If circumstances induce me to renew my application before these are received, it is my intention either not to take notice of the letter of the Minister of Finances, or to consider it merely as the proof that he could not, according to existing laws, on his sole responsibility, and without a diplomatic arrangement, order the claim to be liquidated.
His letter places, nevertheless, our claims on a still more unfavorable footing than that on which they heretofore stood. We had applied to this government for indemnity; we had stated the arguments by which our claims were supported; and receiving no written answer, we had it, however, placed on record that we had been verbally answered that the pressure of the demands of the allies was the reason why ours were not yet taken into consideration. This was not much; but still this government was not in the least committed by the decision of any of its ministers against us.
In the present state of things I will try, until I am positively instructed, to keep the negotiation alive, but without urging a decision, unless I can ascertain that a favorable result will be obtained; and of this I have indeed very little hope.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, July 6, 1819.
Mr. Forsyth informs me, by a letter dated the 23d ult., that the acting Secretary of State (Salmon) has announced to him, in an official note, that the King would proceed slowly to consider the treaty, as it was very important and interesting to his kingdom. I take this only to mean that nothing can be done until the successor of Yrujo shall have been appointed. As Mr. Forsyth intended to despatch the Hornet, you must have received from him an account of the fall of Yrujo, and everything he has been able to learn at Madrid respecting that event and the effect it may have on the treaty. I will only add what I collect from other sources.
It is certain that the Minister of Justice, Lozano del Torres, was the author of Yrujo’s disgrace, in which the Councillor of State, Heredia, has been involved; and it is also a fact that both Yrujo and Heredia had ostensibly given their opinion in favor of the treaty being ratified, and that Lozano openly disapproved it, although it is not as certain that he advised that it should not be ratified. It is very probable that he has, amongst other means, used the treaty as an instrument to overset Yrujo, and that he has also excited the three grantees of Florida lands to use the personal influence which, as officers of the King’s household, they may have with him for the purpose of assisting him in his design, giving them the hope that if Yrujo was out of the way the treaty might be rejected, or at least their claims be protected. But it is considered as very doubtful whether, having obtained his object, he will not consider it safer for himself to suffer the ratification of the treaty rather than to involve his sovereign in difficulties, the effect of which might soon fall upon himself.
Mr. Onis is generally spoken of as Yrujo’s successor, which certainly augurs in favor of the ratification. He, however, remains here, waiting, it is presumed, to be sent for, but not wishing to have the appearance of desiring the appointment. He is here cautious in his language; but I understand from a source entitled to credit that he has written to Madrid advising the ratification in forcible terms, and stating correctly what would be the effect of a different course.
The general opinion here, both with this government and with the best-informed ministers of other powers, is that the treaty will be ratified. I think that this opinion is entertained even by the British legation. But I must add that whenever I have been able to ascertain on what that opinion was founded, I found that it rested more on conjecture than on any positive fact, and that the conviction that a rejection would be fatal to Spain is the principal reason for believing that she will ratify. I have made every verbal observation to the Minister of Foreign Affairs which the occasion required. His disposition is very friendly, and this government is sensible of the danger which that of Spain would run by not ratifying. The French ambassador will give his advice accordingly, but with what degree of energy and what effect I cannot say; and, as it is only a ratification for which they are anxious, he may advise also Mr. Forsyth to exchange the ratifications without minding the land claims. This gentleman is, however, on his guard in that respect, and I write to him on the subject in order that he may fully understand the views of this government. It is still disbelieved here that the British had any agency in Yrujo’s removal, that their government has acquired any influence in the Spanish counsels, or that they have interfered against us with respect to Florida.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO JOHN FORSYTH, UNITED STATES MINISTER TO SPAIN.
Paris, July 9, 1819.
I have received your letters of the 13th, 23d, and 26th of June, and thank you for the information they contain.
It was probable that the British government did not view our acquisition of Florida as dangerous to themselves, not, at least, in the exaggerated manner in which it has been represented by the English papers; and I had believed that, unwilling to irritate us, and aware of their want of influence with the Spanish Cabinet, they had made up their mind not to interfere. What may be the effect of an invitation on the part of Spain it is difficult to judge. There is as yet no fact within my knowledge proving their intention to accede to proposals such as you allude to. Their foreign enlistment bill is a proof that they intend to regain the interest they had lost in Spain, but not that they would run any great risk for that purpose. Toledo has passed through this place on his way to London. Mr. Rush will be better able to give you information on the dispositions of the English government than I can be. I will not fail to communicate anything that I may learn.
The government of France continues to be friendly and disposed to render such good offices in this case as may be done without too great commitment on their part. But, although they wish Florida to fall into our hands rather than in those of any other power, the only point in which they really feel any interest is that there should be no rupture between us and Spain. Provided an accommodation takes place, the terms are a matter of indifference to them. They acknowledge that a confirmation of the large land grants would be contrary not only to the understanding of both parties, but to the spirit of the treaty; that since five millions of dollars are to be paid out of the proceeds of the sales of the lands, that pledge cannot be lessened under the pretence of grants made about the same time that it was offered or ordered to be offered. But they nevertheless care not whether we lose the lands or not, provided the treaty is ratified. I do not know what are the instructions of the Duke of Laval; but I am confident that he will at the same time advise the Spanish government to acknowledge the nullity of the grants and you not to insist on that point.
I will regret with you that the treaty should not be ratified. But I wish the King of Spain would be made to understand that the treaty is as advantageous to her as to the United States; that Florida was an expensive, insulated, and useless possession; that in exchange for it Spain obtains the cession of our claim to a territory intrinsically more valuable, to her infinitely more important, since it gives her the so much desired barrier to Mexico; that if she does not accept the proposal at present, there is no chance of its being hereafter renewed; and that, supposing she pays the five millions, and we are good-natured enough to put up with her breach of faith in refusing to ratify a treaty made in conformity with the King’s instructions, the least she can expect is that we will take immediate possession of the country we claim, at least as far as the Colorado. We certainly will then keep it; and will that preserve Florida from ultimately and by the irresistible course of events falling in our hands? But Spain has greater and more immediate dangers to expect from a refusal to ratify, and if she chooses that course she must abide the consequences. Sure am I our government will not suffer itself to be made a dupe, and that it will be supported by the nation in the course which will be thought most eligible on the occasion. What that will be I do not pretend to know and will not try to conjecture.
As to yourself, my dear sir, although my congratulations may have been premature, your own course is safe, and whilst you adhere to your instructions, and make no abandonment of the rights of the United States, you will be supported and applauded whether your efforts are crowned with success or not. But I have no doubt that attempts will be made, perhaps from various quarters, to divert you from that course. European diplomacy is very crooked, and for that reason very silly. I dare say that Onis, whom I do not trust any more than any other, applauds himself, and thinks in that affair of grants he has overreached our government. But to what purpose? The declaration which you are instructed to make will probably be sufficient to defeat the fraud. But if it did not, and the grants should afterwards produce some embarrassment, the only consequence would be our right, after such declaration, to make new demands against Spain, which would be enforced, and which good faith on her part, or on that of her negotiators, would have prevented.
The general opinion here continues to be that the treaty will be ratified. Onis, who was to leave Paris yesterday for Madrid, has said the same thing; but he has made some allusions to the obligation of the United States to preserve their neutrality and to carry their laws into effect. Whether this is a new battery intended against you, or whether he intends this pretence to reconcile his conduct as negotiator with what may be required from him if he should be made minister, I do not know. He is, however, said to have written to Madrid in favor of the ratification.
I understand that the Duke de Laval has also written that in his opinion the treaty would be ratified, and that you might have detained your corvette some time longer.
It is not believed here that the British government had anything to do with the fall of Yrujo.
Mr. Lowndes has gone to Italy and Switzerland, but is expected to return through Paris on his way to England and the United States. I will keep your letter till his return.
I remain, with perfect respect, dear sir, your obedient servant.
CRAWFORD TO GALLATIN.
Washington, 24th July, 1819.
My dear Sir,—
The departure of Mr. Hyde de Neuville offers so favorable an opportunity of presenting my respects to you that to omit using it would be something like an act of disrespect to him.
He is, as you no doubt have been informed by Mr. Adams, quite a favorite with the Administration, and no less so with the citizens. He deserves the esteem of both.
He will be able to give you the secret history of the Spanish negotiation, which but for his good offices would probably have been postponed for years.
You have, no doubt, seen the report of the bank committee during the last session of Congress, and have learnt the result of the efforts of its chairman. A more unfair exposition of the transaction of the bank could not have been offered to the public.
When fairly represented they were highly censurable, and deserved the severest animadversion. Such a representation would probably have forwarded the views of the chairman more effectually than the one he thought proper to make. The old proverb, “Let envy alone and it will punish itself,” was never more perfectly verified than in this case. I have been strongly censured for not throwing myself between the bank and the investigation which was set on foot. The folly of the censure is manifest. The object of the inquiry was to ascertain what I had no legitimate means of knowing, and what in fact I did not know, except from the newspapers and common rumor. The bank never communicated to me their determination not to receive their own paper except where payable, its determination to discount upon their own stock at $125 for $100, or any other act which I had not a right to demand of it. It was, therefore, impossible for me to shield the bank against the examination, unless a declaration that it had discharged its duties to the Treasury would furnish that shield. The examination has, however, saved the bank, without, however, the consent of the majority of the committee. It is impossible that specie payments could have been continued to this time with Mr. Jones at its head. In saying this I am very far from insinuating anything against his integrity, industry, zeal, and, I may add, talents; for he has certainly a considerable degree of talent. I regretted extremely the necessity there was for his retiring from office, and reluctantly gave my advice for the election of his successor. His removal, however, was indispensable, not only as a propitiatory offering upon the altar of public opinion, but for the preservation of the bank itself. He had so completely enveloped himself in the policy of the Baltimoreans, so completely was he taken in their toils, that he obeyed no other impulse. It is now ascertained that the branch direction of Baltimore wished the suspension of specie payments, and were conducting the affairs of the office to effect that object. The president, cashier, and teller of the bank made use of the funds of the institution as if they were their own, taking what they wanted and dividing the rest out among their confederate friends. A scene of fraud and swindling has been exhibited there which would suit much better the Court of St. James or that of Vienna than a republican city of not more than half a century’s growth. The funds of the corporation have been dilapidated to an amount not much below $2,000,000. Under the administration of Mr. Jones this dilapidation would not only not have been discovered, but would have been carried to an extent which would have produced the most widespread ruin among the stockholders. It was partly discovered shortly after Mr. Cheves came into the presidency; and, after obtaining such security as the parties were able or willing to furnish, the cashier was removed. This act was a death-blow to the swindlers. They distinctly saw that concealment was no longer possible. Buchanan resigned the presidency, and endeavored to have the removal of the cashier denounced in a town-meeting. His friends who were friendly to the bank offered him $400,000, which he had the candor to admit was of no use to him. This unveiled his plan of denunciation and of bankruptcy, into which he had drawn a number of others. What he was about to do from necessity, and throw the odium of it upon the bank, they were going to do to express their indignation at the removal of a swindling officer. The town-meeting was abandoned, and the public indignation fell where it was deserved, upon the officers of the branch bank. It is proper to observe that General Smith is acquitted in Baltimore of all the disgraceful acts which have covered Buchanan and McCulloh with indelible disgrace.
The United States Bank is now entirely safe. Its affairs have been managed with skill, integrity, and great energy by Mr. Cheves. Until lately he has been absolute. About the middle of April it was in the utmost peril. It owed the Philadelphia banks more than the amount of specie in its vaults. Its means of replenishment were contracted and distant. Under these circumstances he gave me notice that the bank would not receive from the government, and credit as specie, its own notes except at the places where they were payable, and that it would not pay Treasury drafts except at places where the public money had accumulated, without reasonable time being first given to transfer the public money to the place required. From the time the examination was instituted by the House of Representatives, the board of directors fell into a state of inanity or lethargy, which prevented their transferring advantageously the public money which had accumulated at Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans. The resolution of the bank, therefore, left me without funds at any point to the east of this place. The public funds were in the West and in the South, where there was but little demand for them, and from whence, especially the former, it was impossible to transfer them to any considerable extent. My reliance was, therefore, upon the collections in the Atlantic cities, to the eastward, and upon transfers which were practicable from the South. The first resource was greatly diminished by the receipt, at those places, of the notes of the Southern and Western offices, which were considered as so much revenue collected in those offices instead of the places where they were received. For such sums time to transfer was necessarily required, according to the regulation of the bank. Against this inconvenience there was no immediate remedy but to refuse to receive the notes of the bank and its offices except where they were payable. To this I was earnestly pressed by Mr. Cheves, who thought there was no doubt of the right of the Treasury to refuse them under such circumstances. I did not concur in this opinion; but if I had concurred I should not have acted upon it, as it was very manifest that the question was not so clear as to admit of no difference of opinion. A refusal to receive them would have been the signal for their tender from Passamaquoddy to the Sabine; the collection of the revenue would have been suspended until the decision of the Supreme Court could have been obtained. There was then a moral and political obligation to receive their notes without reference to the place where they were payable.
The embarrassments, however, which these measures produced have nearly disappeared, and if it was possible to use the Western funds in the support of the army, our fiscal operations would be simple and easy. How far this can be effected depends upon the War Department, which has manifested a strong disposition to aid me in this regard; but owing to the insubordination of the officers and the perverseness of the contractors, but little progress has been made towards the accomplishment of this indispensable object. Unless this can be done, a deficit, not in the receipts, but in effective revenue, will probably occur during the present, and certainly during the succeeding, year. It is, I think, probable that the expenditures of the next year will have to be reduced, or new impositions exacted of the people. The internal duties were abolished upon the supposition that the annual expenditure, which was then less than $22,000,000, would not be increased. The Congress which abolished them increased the expenditure permanently to about $25,000,000, which increase exceeded the amount at which the internal duties had been estimated. The Revolutionary Pension Bill of itself makes up nearly the difference between these two sums. I think it is probable that the reduction required by the state of the finances will be made in the War Department. This can be effected either by a reduction of the army or by postponing a year or two a large portion of the estimate for fortifications. It is probable that the former mode of equalizing the expenditure and revenue will be adopted. The events of the Seminole war, and other events connected with the army, have produced a strong disposition to reduce, if not annihilate it. This disposition is understood to be predominant in the Senate of the United States. The vote in the other House upon the Seminole war is not to be ascribed to any indisposition to this object. The President threw the whole of his weight against the proceeding, and the Clintonians in the House, who came to Congress most decidedly hostile to the military procedure of the general, suddenly faced about and were his most zealous and clamorous defenders. The rest of New York were in his favor because the President was against the inquiry. When it is recollected that the men who voted for the resolutions are of the number of those who have defended the army against the efforts which have been heretofore made to reduce it, I think its reduction is almost certain, even without the inducement which a deficit in the revenue cannot fail to present. The navy appropriation, I think, will hardly be reduced. You have probably understood that General Jackson has been making war upon me in a manner not less savage perhaps than he made upon the savages themselves. His alleged cause of hostility is that I was hostile to him in the deliberation which his Seminole war produced. Now, in that deliberation I avoided giving any opinion which could personally affect the general. I confined my opinions and reasons entirely to the preservation of peace with Spain, and connected with it the preservation of the Constitution. There was in fact no difference of opinion in the Cabinet, except on the part of the Secretary of State, who, upon every question connected with the Floridas, has been excessively heterodoxical.
The course pursued by me upon that occasion is distinctly understood by the general; but his hostility has not subsided: at least I have received no evidence of it. The ogling and love-making which commenced last winter between him and De Witt Clinton has been kept up through the summer. It will in all human probability eventuate in toasts and puffs on both sides. It is a connection which has originated in unprincipled ambition on the one side and the most vindictive resentments on the other. It is impossible that the public interest can be promoted by so unhallowed a connection.
Old Pennsylvania Democracy seems to be going the way of all the earth. The late secretary of the Commonwealth seems to have been completely successful in producing another schism in the party. Binns and many others are now making war not only upon him but upon the governor. Strong manifestations have been given of a disposition to bring forward S. Snyder in opposition to him; whilst many, especially about Philadelphia, direct their views to the American minister at Paris as the only means of putting an end to the dissensions which now prevail in the Republican party in that State. I am afraid the defection of Binns, and others who are disgusted with the conduct of Mr. Sergeant, will give to Federalism, aided by the old-school party, a decided preponderance. In the West everything is unsettled. Notwithstanding the ostensible popularity of the Administration, the materials of a most formidable opposition may be easily discovered. Fortunately, no occurrence has yet favored their concentration, or tended to give them form or fix a rallying-point. For the peace of the nation I hope that none will be presented.
Present my respects to Mrs. Gallatin and the other members of your family, and accept the assurance of the sincere regard with which I have the honor to be your most obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, July 29, 1819.
A report prevailed at Madrid that the King had determined to apply to the British government for the loan of five millions of dollars for the purpose of paying the amount due for spoliations to American citizens, in consideration of which loan Spain would engage not to ratify the cession of Florida to the United States. An agent named Toledo was said to have been despatched to London on that errand, and Mr. Forsyth wrote on the subject to Mr. Rush and to myself. It was also for some days asserted and believed here that Toledo had passed through Paris on his way to England. It is now ascertained that he never went beyond Bordeaux, where he had gone either on family affairs or perhaps on some business connected with the arrangement made by Spain with French houses for the hire of transports. I have not heard from Mr. Rush on the subject, but have reason to believe that no such proposal has, through any channel, been made by the Spanish government to that of England.
The King of Spain was not expected to return from Lacedon to Madrid before the 26th instant, and nothing definitive would be done in our business before that time. The refusal to permit Lozano to accompany the King to Lacedon was considered as an evidence of the declining influence of that Minister. In the mean while, our treaty had again been taken in consideration by the council of state, and all the reports agree in stating that it was agreed almost unanimously to advise the King to ratify the treaty.
Last night Mr. Dessolle, in relating the fact, added that not a single member of the Spanish council would advise that the grants of lands should be declared null. He said that this government, from their friendship to both countries, continued to interpose their good offices; that perhaps it might be best to leave the construction of the treaty to our tribunals, without entangling the change of ratifications with new difficulties; and that in order to avoid a discussion with Mr. Forsyth the Spanish government would perhaps send the King’s ratification to his chargé at Washington in order to be exchanged there. I told him that this course would only transfer the discussion from one place to another; that in the mean while the six months limited for the exchange of ratifications would have elapsed, and that it was not probable, if the treaty was not fairly ratified according to its true spirit, that the United States would renew any negotiations, since it would in that case appear that even a solemn agreement afforded no security and did not bind Spain. I believe that all these suggestions came from the French ambassador at Madrid.
The intended mutiny of the troops at Cadiz, which was only prevented by disarming a large portion of them, is considered here as breaking up the great expedition against Buenos Ayres. It is, however, still believed that about 3000 men have sailed the 11th instant from Cadiz to reinforce Morillo.
It is not yet ascertained whether Onis has been permitted to reach Madrid, or whether he has been stopped by order of his government at some intermediate place.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, September 3, 1819.
My last advices from Mr. Forsyth were of the 21st ultimo. He informed me that the Spanish government had announced to him the King’s determination not to ratify the treaty until he had obtained from the United States some previous explanations, for which purpose he intended to send a minister there with the necessary powers to that effect; that he (Mr. F.) had in reply stated that he was able to give an answer to any points on which Spain might wish to obtain explanations, and that the refusal to exchange the ratifications within the time prescribed by the treaty would be tantamount to a rejection.
The French government received yesterday accounts of the 23d, announcing that the Spanish government had persisted, and ultimately refused to ratify. From another quarter I understand that the minister they intend to send, probably with the character of ambassador, is the Duke of San Fernando.
In a conversation I had last night with Marquis Dessolle, and in which he regretted the result and did not appear perfectly satisfied with the conduct of the French ambassador at Madrid, he frankly acknowledged that France had lost a considerable part of her influence with Spain, and that the present Ministry of this country were considered as Jacobins by many of the foreign powers; a charge which is really unjust and absurd.
To the offer made by Spain to Portugal, it has been answered that it would be accepted, provided that Olivenza should be restored, the neutrality of Brazil be recognized, and Montevideo declared a free port. These conditions had, it seems, been all agreed to by Spain during the course of the negotiation; but the last was connected with the expectation of a mediation between her and the colonies. She does not seem disposed to agree to any of them now; and the result of the negotiation is as uncertain as ever.
The equipment of a powerful fleet in England (said to be fifteen ships of the line) excites here a considerable alarm. Its object has not been communicated to this government. The ministers of Russia and Spain, and, as far as I know, those of all the other powers, are equally uninformed. No person can even form any conjecture of the object for which such an armament could be necessary.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 24th September, 1819.
You will have been informed before the receipt of this letter that the Duke of San Fernando, after having refused the mission to the United States, has been appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. This is considered as a triumph over Lozano, and the offer to send the Duke to America as a fruitless effort to get rid of a dangerous rival.
The Marquis Dessolle says that when our treaty was before the council of state, the Duke of San Fernando said that he disliked it, but that it was better to cede a province than do anything which might throw doubts on the King’s good faith. It is added on the same authority that the Spanish Cabinet will instruct the minister they are going to send to the United States to enter into explanations respecting the Florida grants, and to ask that our government should engage not to recognize the independence of the Spanish colonies, but that there is a disposition to arrange the first point to our satisfaction, and that if the last cannot be obtained, it will only be asked that we should take more efficient measures with respect to armed vessels sailing under the insurgent flag.
The Marquis expressed great anxiety on the subject, and much apprehension of the consequences of what our government might do on receiving the account of the non-ratification of the treaty. In pursuing the same temperate course which had heretofore marked all our measures, the United States must unavoidably obtain all they desired. They had now the general good will and, for the particular object in question, the wishes of all Europe. Independent as they were of this hemisphere, this consideration ought, nevertheless, to have its weight; and very different feelings would prevail if we adopted such violent measures as would provoke a war. He added some other arguments connected with the probable views of Great Britain, though he acknowledged that she had behaved fairly on this last occasion.
I replied, generally, that, after what had passed, the European powers could not be astonished that the government of the United States, having lost all confidence in that of Spain, should take more decisive measures than had heretofore been adopted, and that it was her conduct over which the powers friendly to her should try to acquire some influence.
The Russian minister had expressed sentiments in substance similar to those of this government; and there can be no doubt of the fact that they apprehend and will see with displeasure a rupture between us and Spain. That opinion I had already expressed in my despatches of last year; and although I am satisfied from every report that Great Britain has not opposed the ratification of the treaty, and done nothing to encourage the war between us and Spain, I am still convinced that she would profit by it, and that the greatest immediate injury arising from it would be the depredations on our commerce by privateers armed here and in England under Spanish commissions.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 25th October, 1819.
I had the honor, in conformity to your request, to transmit in my despatches Nos. 40 and 51 copies of the French tariff and of the communications of our several consuls on the subject of the extra duties and charges laid in the ports of France on the commerce of the United States. The great inequality in favor of French vessels produced no effect so long as the French navigation remained in that state of nullity in which it was left at the close of the war. But everything has recovered here with unexampled rapidity; and although we still preserve a great superiority in maritime affairs, it is not such as to counterbalance the difference in the rate of duties. American vessels are daily withdrawing from the trade, and if the evil is not corrected the whole of the commerce between the two countries will soon be carried on almost exclusively in French vessels. Our countervailing system of extra duties is wholly inefficient to protect our navigation, and if they were still more increased on the same plan, the French duties continuing the same, the ultimate effect would be that all our importations from France would be made in American, and all our exportations to France in French, vessels. This, considering the respective bulk of both, would give to the French four-fifths of the navigation between the two countries.
Although the general conversations I have had on the subject, the spirit of exclusion and monopoly which prevails here, and the conduct of this government in the case of the brokers at Havre, gave no hopes of obtaining relief through the medium of negotiations, and although I felt a reluctance to make an application that would not probably be favorably received, the circumstances appeared so urgent that I have thought it my duty to address the Minister of Foreign Affairs the letter of which a copy is enclosed.1 It will, at least, have the good effect of preparing them for any modification in our laws which may appear necessary for restoring equality. And notwithstanding their habit of not answering and of postponing whenever they do not wish to discuss, I hope to be able to communicate to you their real determination in time for Congress to act during the ensuing session, if that course should be deemed eligible.
The difficulty in that case will be to find an efficient remedy. I have already alluded to it in my despatch No. 88, in which I suggested the utility of obtaining an amendment to the Constitution of the United States which would authorize Congress to lay a duty on produce of the United States when exported in foreign vessels. But that process is uncertain and dilatory. On reflecting on the subject, it has appeared to me that another mode might be adopted, which I beg leave to submit to your consideration.
It consists in repealing our existing discriminating duty (of 10 per cent. on the ordinary duty) on merchandise imported in foreign vessels, and in substituting to it an additional duty on those vessels, equal on an average to the extra duty which foreign countries lay on our produce when imported there in American vessels.
To apply this to France, and taking the French extra duty on cotton, which is our principal export there, as the criterion, the difference between the duty laid here on cotton when imported in our vessels and that laid on it when imported in French vessels is about one cent and a quarter per pound. Supposing, then, that a vessel carries at the rate of about 1000 pounds of cotton to a ton, the difference amounts to about 12½ dollars per ton; and this is the additional tonnage which, being laid in our ports on all French vessels, without regard to their inward or outward cargoes, would countervail in a direct manner the French extra duty. This statement shows the greatness of the evil to be corrected, since, even admitting some error in the estimated quantity of cotton which vessels carry on an average, the difference against vessels of the United States is more than the whole price of the freight. Calculated on tobacco, that difference is still greater, and amounts to nearly 17 dollars per ton; for although the duty when imported in American vessels is but two-thirds per pound of that laid on cotton, a vessel will carry at least twice as much tobacco per ton as cotton. There can be no doubt that, taking into consideration the whole trade, the additional tonnage duty of 12½ dollars per ton on French vessels generally, substituted to our existing discriminating duties, will no more than countervail the extra duties laid by the French government on our vessels.
But, in order to render this plan altogether efficient, I think it would be necessary to authorize also the President, in case the government of France should attempt to defeat it by laying additional duties on our vessels, to increase in the same proportion the proposed tonnage duty on French vessels. And a provision might be added that all those extra duties should cease on our part whenever France consented to repeal theirs.
I have only alluded to the general extra duties paid into the public treasury; but there are various other local charges laid on our vessels, such as pilotage, brokerage, &c., which are sometimes heavy, and always vexatious, but which it is more difficult to countervail, because they are not uniform. Their nature and amount are stated in the consular communications formerly transmitted; that which relates to the ship-brokers of Havre is fully explained in my despatch No. 103; and I must add that to the letters which I addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on that subject I have received no further answer. The average amount of those various charges might be estimated and added to the suggested additional tonnage duty. But the most efficient mode to obtain redress in those cases would be to lay another specific duty on French vessels, equal to the charges which, in the ports to which these vessels might respectively belong, are laid on American vessels. That specific duty would of course vary according to the French ports from which the vessels came; and although there might be some difficulty in the execution, it seems to me that it may be surmounted by making the certificate of consuls legal evidence of the amount of the extra charges imposed in their respective consular districts on American vessels.
The importance of this subject will be my apology for having offered these suggestions. Of the greatness of the injury sustained by our commerce, and of the necessity of applying without delay a remedy, there can be no doubt. I hope that I may be mistaken on one point, and no endeavors shall be omitted on my part to induce this government to alter their policy; but I firmly believe that nothing will produce that effect but the adoption of countervailing measures on the part of the United States.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 26th October, 1819.
I have no advices from Mr. Forsyth since the arrival of the Hornet. It is reported, on the authority of the French ambassador at Madrid, that the Duke of San Fernando is still disposed towards an arrangement of the difficulties between the United States and Spain, but that having still to encounter the faction of Lozano and others he must act with great caution, and that there was no expectation that a favorable answer could be obtained from him within the short time fixed by Mr. Forsyth for an ultimate decision. The reports of Tatischeff, the Russian minister to Spain, who passed through here on his way to Warsaw and St. Petersburg, are also unfavorable. I did not see him; but from his language to Pozzo I infer that his conduct in our affairs has not been as friendly and open as we might have expected. I cannot say whether this should be ascribed to his knowledge of his sovereign’s intentions or to his anxiety of preserving his personal standing and influence with the Court of Spain. Whatever may have been the conduct of the French ambassador there during the course of the negotiations, there can be no doubt of the friendly dispositions and candor of this government in our affairs with that Court; but the present Ministry had no influence in that quarter.
Their great anxiety is still that there should be no rupture, and they feel much apprehension of the ensuing proceedings of Congress. They seem to fear principally the forcible occupation of any place in Florida in a manner similar to that of Pensacola last year, or a positive recognition of the independence of some of the Spanish colonies, as likely to lead to war, or calculated at least to preclude every expectation of a friendly arrangement. It is altogether impossible, however, to foresee whether these apprehensions would be justified, and to calculate how far the United States may go without provoking a declaration of war on the part of Spain. She is weak, but proud; will bear much, but not beyond a certain point; and the measures of her government have heretofore been so extraordinary that no rational conjecture can be formed of what it may do in any given situation. So far as I can judge, I think the occupation of what is called the province of Texas and of any part of Florida which may be taken possession of without recourse to actual hostility would be acquiesced in.
Should a war be the consequence of any measures of the United States which would be considered here as too violent, they will lose the good will of France and Russia, and the friendly relations now subsisting with those two countries may be seriously affected; but Spain will have no allies, and receive no other assistance but what may be derived from the privateering system to which I have alluded in my former letters.
It would be more important, but it is more difficult, to ascertain the real views of Great Britain. That she has not interfered to prevent the ratification of our treaty appears to be more than probable; but her situation impels her to seek at almost any risk markets for her manufactures and employment for her seamen. Her conduct seems to prove that, though under peculiar restraints from previous engagements, she wishes the emancipation of the Spanish colonies, without which she can never obtain a free trade with them. I cannot, therefore, help thinking that she would see a war without regret take place between us and Spain, of which she would hope to reap the fruits without expense, without risk, and without altering her relations with that country or with the other European powers. My letters of last autumn gave you a true statement of the manner in which she defeated the plan of a mediation between Spain and the Spanish colonies, and she has now put an end to that between Spain and Portugal in a manner which shows her object without much disguise.
The last offer of Spain, as mentioned in a former despatch, was to pay in money the indemnity promised to Portugal; but in doing this she considered herself as released from the obligation to restore Olivenza, and from that of leaving Montevideo a free port. The mediating powers were unanimously of opinion that Olivenza must be restored to Portugal; but a majority (all, I believe, with the exception of the British ambassador) concurred in considering the condition of leaving Montevideo a free port as having been connected with the plan of a mediation between Spain and her colonies, and as being no longer binding on Spain. The British government has, in consequence of this determination, delivered an official note to the other mediating powers, declaring that Great Britain cannot become a party to any treaty which should restore to Spain any of her colonies now enjoying a free trade without the express condition that such trade should be preserved. She has by this act, in fact, withdrawn herself from the mediation, which may, of course, be considered as at an end, unless the other powers and Spain shall retract and yield the point. It is now understood that the British armament, the extent of which had, however, been grossly exaggerated, was intended in the first place for La Plata, and might have been employed according to circumstances if, as threatened by Spain, her Cadiz armament had attempted to take Montevideo by force. The calamity which has fallen on that town has, however, as you know, put for the present an end to the Spanish expedition.
This proceeding on the part of England has irritated France, and still more Russia and Spain. It is suspected, perhaps unjustly, that Portugal took possession of Montevideo at the instigation of Great Britain. It is evident that she has prevented its being restored to Spain, and that her object was at all events to preserve her commerce with Buenos Ayres and La Plata. If Montevideo had been thus given up, Spain, with that port at the mouth of the river in her possession and a few armed vessels in the river itself, would have effectually blockaded Buenos Ayres and the whole colony; and to such actual blockade Great Britain as neutral must have submitted. Whatever the result of the contest might have been on land, she would have lost the trade of the country. In order to prevent this, she threw in through Portugal every possible impediment to the negotiation, and has not hesitated at last, when every other means had been exhausted, to withdraw from the mediation, and almost to avow her object.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 8th December, 1819.
It was not till the 27th ultimo that your despatch No. 15, of the 23d August last, reached me. The language I had held on the subject of our Spanish affairs was not inconsistent with the views of the President, but would have been more explicit had they been distinctly known to me. The only use that could now be made of your instructions was to prepare this government for the intended occupation of Florida; but on account of the late change of Ministry I could not before to-day obtain an interview with M. Pasquier, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.
After some preliminary observations on the negotiations antecedent to the treaty, I stated that the refusal of the King of Spain to ratify a treaty concluded under his authority and in conformity with his instructions must be considered as a breach of faith; that no confidence could after this be placed in the success of new negotiations without some security that they should not again be attended with a similar result; and that it was therefore the intention of the President to occupy Florida, not with any views hostile to Spain, but simply for the purpose of having a pledge of her fulfilling as well the obligations the validity of which she did not deny as the engagements which might result from a renewal of negotiations. I added that, although this measure could not, according to our institutions, be adopted without the concurrence of Congress, I had been instructed to make known the intention of the President to the government of France, a communication not only founded on the amicable relations subsisting between the two countries, but which was due to the friendly interposition of his Majesty on this occasion.
Mr. Pasquier expressed his regret at this result, and said that, without denying the force of our reasons, he would observe that the government of Spain was differently organized from that of the other European powers; that Spain compared with us was the weaker power, and that for those reasons more indulgence might be shown to her, and would not have been attended with any great inconvenience to the United States; that we might have occupied Florida as easily six months hence as at this moment, and that he had already written to the French legation at Madrid, and conferred with the Spanish ambassador here, in order to hasten the departure of the new minister of Spain to the United States.
I alluded, in reply, to the repeated delays and denials of justice which we had already experienced from Spain, assured Mr. Pasquier that the patience of the nation was quite exhausted, and observed that, my despatches having been retarded by some accident, the communication I was now making had become that of a fact rather than that of a subject of discussion.
The conference ended in mutual expressions of good will, and in assurances of the intention of both governments to preserve and strengthen the friendly relations subsisting between the two countries.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, December 9, 1819.
The change of Ministers has thrown new delays in the discussion of the commercial propositions which I had made to this government. Mr. Pasquier has promised to take them immediately into consideration, and seems to understand both the reasonableness of what we ask and the difficulty of acceding to it without giving great displeasure to the shipping interest of France. The council of commerce (consisting of eminent merchants), to whom the proposals in the first instance had been referred, have reported that a nominal equality would give a decided superiority to our navigation, that the French discriminating duties were, however, too high, and that they should be reduced to two-thirds of their present amount. I have explicitly declared that if, instead of abolishing all those duties on both sides, an equalization was attempted, the reduction proposed by the council of commerce was altogether insufficient, and I could not accede to it.
I have the honor, &c.
[1 ]This note will be found in American State Papers, vol. v. (Foreign Relations) p. 19, and again pp. 290, 291.
[1 ]This note will be found in American State Papers, vol. v. (Foreign Relations) p. 33.