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1821: 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, 29th March, 1821.
I had the honor to receive your despatches No. 29, 30, and 31. Nothing has occurred in relation to our affairs since my last letter. Indeed, this government has been too much occupied with the events passing in Europe to attend to objects of less importance. In a conversation with one of the Ministers, whom I have reason to believe to be desirous that an arrangement should take place, he suggested a prolongation for a limited time of the privileges which had by the Louisiana Treaty been secured during twelve years to the French commerce in that quarter, as a substitute to the provision which allows permanent advantages to it, and as a mode of conciliating the difference of opinion of the two governments on that subject. Another person, of great respectability, and very friendly to the United States, alluded to the necessity of some concession on our part which might enable this government to come to an arrangement without abandoning altogether the ground they had taken.
An increasing demand from other quarters for the Lyons manufactures, and the fall in the price of cotton, have for the present lessened the effect which the suspension of commercial intercourse with the United States would otherwise have produced on the manufacturing interest of this country. No observation has been made to me with respect to the French vessel seized in the waters of St. Mary’s. The papers you have sent me on the subject have all been received. It seems to me that the only doubtful point is whether France has a right to complain of a violation of the Spanish territory.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 18th May, 1821.
I had the honor to receive your despatch No. 34, of the 2d of April last.
The steps taken by this government, and the conversations I had with Mr. Pasquier and with Mr. Hyde de Neuville, had not encouraged very sanguine hopes that this minister’s powers and instructions were such as to enable you to conclude an arrangement with him on reasonable terms. The delay in his departure, the accident which detained him, and the season of the year when he finally sailed, precluded any rational expectation of an early termination of the negotiations at Washington. I was, therefore, from the beginning of the winter led to apprehend that they might be transferred again to this place, and yet that the result would not be ascertained till late in the spring. Although the prospect of an arrangement being made here was not flattering, I could not help thinking that this government had received some erroneous impressions respecting the opinions prevailing at Washington and the effect which Mr. Hyde’s mission would produce, and that its result might induce them to take a more correct view of the subject. I thought it, upon the whole, my duty to wait, and, the lease of my house expiring on the 1st of May without having heard from you, I concluded to make arrangements for remaining in France another year. From motives of economy, I have taken for the summer a country-seat three leagues from Paris, at which place I have left Mr. Sheldon and the office. I will return there to spend the winter, and intend to sail for the United States early next spring. I am happy to find that this coincides with the views of the President, and beg leave to request you to present my acknowledgments to him for his kind attention: for a passage late in the year with my family would have been impracticable.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 20th May, 1821.
I had the honor to receive your letter No. 33, of 31st March last.
The ship that had taken Mr. Hyde de Neuville to the United States had returned a few days before, and had brought some despatches from him, and the Act of Congress of the 3d of March. Although Mr. Pasquier seemed pleased with both, and it appears that this government had authorized the promise of a reciprocal restoration of duties on vessels which had entered French ports without notice of the new tonnage duty, he did not attend to it; and, although ignorant of that fact, I found it necessary, after waiting a few days, to remind him that such a measure was naturally expected, and that it would have a much better effect if spontaneous on the part of the French government than if it appeared as the result of an official application on my part. He seemed at first to think that it was unnecessary to issue any ordinance for that purpose, and that the first had provided for the case. On my insisting, he promised to attend to it, and the ordinance of the 23d of April (contained in the Moniteur of the 27th) was accordingly issued, and communicated to me in the letter of which a copy is enclosed. Those circumstances are mentioned only to show that our affairs do not engross much of the attention of this government.
There is not much appearance of an accommodating disposition in Mr. Hyde’s letters enclosed in your despatch; but it would be premature to draw any positive inference. In your letter to him you mention my having been instructed to give to this government explanations respecting the seizure of the Apollon; but I had understood, as you may have inferred from my despatches Nos. 172 and 174, that these explanations were to be given only in case the subject should be mentioned to me. I think that, if it can be avoided, it will be best not to agitate it here; but, if that should become necessary, I would wish to understand fully the grounds of the decision of the District Court. . . .
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 21st May, 1821.
I had the honor to receive your despatch No. 32, of 31st March last.
The Antwerp claims having again been laid before the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and all the arguments which could be urged in the present stage of the business having been exhausted in my letters to him and to his predecessors, the Duke of Richelieu and Marquis Dessolle, the only question which can now arise relates to the propriety of urging a decision. I will confer with Mr. Gracie on that point, and keep also in view the effect any steps taken with respect to these may have on the other claims of our fellow-citizens. I have already mentioned that Mr. de Neuville had alluded to the propriety of settling these questions at the same time with those relating to the Louisiana Treaty and the commercial relations of the two countries. I might have added that he had shown much more favorable dispositions with regard to the indemnities due to us than on any of the other subjects of discussion between the two governments. Another circumstance deserves, perhaps, to be mentioned. All the Antwerp claims arise from the seizure of vessels consigned either to the house of Mr. Parish or to that of Mr. Ridgeway. Mr. Mertens, of Bruxelles, formerly a partner of the last house, who has the management of the claims connected with it, and is a very respectable man, was here in December last, and consulted me on the propriety of accepting an offer made to him by some Frenchmen for the purchase of the claims. I declined giving any opinion on a question of that nature, as I could neither countenance a speculation which might prove injurious to our countrymen, nor give any assurance that there was a prospect of obtaining full compensation from France. He then told me that he would write to the claimants in America. He can hardly have yet received any answer, and I do not believe that he will act without making further inquiries from me. But it is not probable that the men in question, whom I understood to be in some shape or another connected with persons employed in the bureau, and who had offered to Mr. Mertens one-half of the principal claimed, would have done it had they not strong grounds to believe that the claims would, at least when owned by them, be ultimately admitted by government. As there is an appearance of corruption in all this, I must add that, if it does exist, I believe that it is only in some of the bureaux, which, unfortunately, have a much greater influence in important decisions than the simple form of our administration would lead us to suppose.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 23d June, 1821.
I had the honor to receive your despatches Nos. 35, 36, and 37. I had been strengthened in my own opinion that it was best not to agitate here the question of the Apollon, unless it was first mentioned by this government, by the expressions used in your despatch No. 28, that the documents transmitted on that subject should be used in quieting any uneasiness which the French government might manifest at that seizure. But, the correspondence with Mr. de Neuville enclosed in your despatch No. 37 showing that the discussion on that point was abandoned with the understanding that the necessary explanations had been given here to this government, I found it necessary to take some steps in that respect, although the copies of your answers, which were already in their possession, had nearly exhausted the question. I accordingly addressed the enclosed note to Mr. Pasquier, leaving it in his power by its tenor silently to drop the subject if he thought proper. He, however, answered on the 21st, inviting me to an interview on any day I thought proper. I waited on him yesterday, when he said that he was of opinion that of all questions there was none which could with more propriety be discussed at Washington than that of a seizure made in the United States; that the seizure was an evident violation of international rights, and that, the case being already decided by the decree of our own court, declaring the seizure to have been illegal, nothing remained for discussion but the reparation to be made for the offence. I replied that, since he was not satisfied with the explanations already received, it was my duty to address him on the subject, as I was in hopes that he would find that he had been presented with an incorrect view of the subject; that his allusion to the decree of the court was a proof of his not being sufficiently informed, as, although I had not seen it, I could assert that it had not at all decided the question of the legality of the seizure; that the only motive with my government to prefer that the subject should be explained here rather than be discussed at Washington was to remove any incidental matter which might embarrass the negotiation; and that I would transmit my observations to him in writing, after which he would decide on the course which he might think proper to pursue. We entered, however, insensibly in the discussion, in the course of which I did not perceive that I had produced much impression otherwise than what might be inferred from his being obliged to resort on two occasions to distinctions more subtle than solid, and from his language being less harsh and positive at the end than at the beginning of our conversation. I have promised to send him my note in the commencement of next week, and I understood that he would not till after its receipt write to Mr. de Neuville on the subject.
On my inquiring whether that gentleman was to proceed immediately to Brazil, or to remain in the United States till the negotiation was terminated, Mr. Pasquier answered that he had already written to Mr. de Neuville to suspend his departure till further orders, and until the situation of Brazil and Portugal and the place where the King would reside were better ascertained, and that it was of course expected that he, Mr. de Neuville, would remain in the United States till the negotiation was terminated.
On my alluding to its present situation, and his saying that it was less advanced than he had expected, I observed that I was apprehensive that the course pursued was not calculated to bring it speedily to an end. Not only had Mr. de Neuville departed from reciprocity by proposing a reduction of one-half of our discriminating duties and of only one-third of those of France, whilst it was notorious that it was the exaggerated rate of these which had occasioned the present difficulties, but he had also blended with the question of navigation, which it was the object of the negotiation to settle, matter foreign to it, asking a gratuitous reduction of duties on French wine, and also an increase of duties on China silk; a change in our tariff which perhaps it might hereafter be our interest to make by law, but which it could not certainly be expected that we would by treaty bind ourselves to make without an equivalent. Our government had accordingly asked as a compensation that we should be released from the obligation to sell tobacco exclusively to the régie; a demand which, however reasonable, I well knew that France could not accede to without changing the whole of her fiscal system with respect to the fabrication and sale of manufactured tobacco, of which the régie, or, in other words, government, had now the monopoly; for it must be clearly understood that what was asked on our part was not the permission to sell to individuals for exportation, which we had already by the means of the entrepôot, but that of selling for the home consumption of France to other persons than to the régie. It appeared, therefore, that these extraneous subjects, which there was more intrinsic difficulty to arrange than that of the navigation itself, should be withdrawn from the discussion. I added that although the United States could not accept the abstract and undetermined basis proposed by France, yet they had done what was in fact tantamount to it, by so far receding from their first demand of a total abrogation of the discriminating duties as to express their readiness to receive specific propositions for their reduction, and that the best mode to ascertain whether an arrangement was practicable was to meet them simply on that ground. Mr. Pasquier did not otherwise answer these observations than by saying that any arrangement reducing the discriminating duties would give a decided advantage to our navigation, and he repeated the assertion, drawn from the returns of the custom-houses for the years 1819 and 1820, that we had preserved the superiority to the last moment till the extraordinary tonnage duties had taken place. The obvious answer, already repeatedly made, was again repeated, and I added that since the negotiation had been transferred to Washington, it was not at all my intention to discuss any litigated point, and that he must consider the observations I had taken the liberty to make as extra-official, and brought forth only by my sincere desire to promote an amicable settlement of our commercial difficulties.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO BARON PASQUIER.
Paris, 28th June, 1821.
Although your Excellency is already possessed of the principal facts relative to the seizure of the French ship Apollon, Captain Edou, I beg leave, in conformity with the intentions of my government, to recapitulate the grounds on which that seizure was made.
As the right of a government to seize a vessel within its own jurisdiction for an actual or presumed violation of the laws, and to bring her to a trial before the competent tribunal, cannot be denied, my observations will be confined to that circumstance on which the remonstrances and complaints preferred by the diplomatic agents of France appear to have been founded, namely, the seizure of the vessel whilst in Florida, and, as it is alleged, without the jurisdiction of the United States.
The obvious answer is that the United States had, as is well known, taken possession of Amelia Island, in Florida, more than two years before the incident in question, and that they had at the same time extended their jurisdiction over the whole of St. Mary’s harbor, including the place where the Apollon was seized.
Strictly speaking, the last point is the only one which can be subject to discussion. For the motives which induced the United States to occupy Amelia Island and the adjacent waters, and for the manner in which the occupation was effected, they are accountable only to Spain. A third nation, unless she should think proper to become a party in the question, considers only the fact of actual possession, and her vessels and subjects must submit to the jurisdiction of the occupant so long as the possession is maintained.
It has indeed been suggested that there were but two modes of obtaining possession of a foreign territory which could be recognized by other nations, that is to say, cession by virtue of a treaty, and conquest in time of war. This assertion does not appear tenable. A third nation has no more concern with the manner in which the possession is taken than with the motives of the act. There may be cases which would justify a remonstrance, but in the mean while the possession and incident jurisdiction must be and are always respected. Without recurring to more remote instances, although some could be found in the annals of France, particularly under the reign of Louis the Fourteenth, it is sufficient to mention that of Montevideo. That seaport and the adjacent territory were taken possession of by Portugal whilst at peace with Spain, and if not from the same motives, at least in the same manner as Amelia Island and the Spanish port of the adjacent harbor were occupied by the United States. It does not belong to me either to justify or to impugn that act. But the fear it might disturb the general peace drew the attention of the principal European powers towards it; and although their interposition was unavailing and the possession is still maintained, the temporary jurisdiction of Portugal over the occupied territory has not been disputed, and is still respected.
There is not, however, when offering amicable explanations to a government whose friendship and opinion are highly valued by the United States, any hesitation to communicate the causes which led to the occupation of a part of Florida. This act was the unavoidable consequence of the inability of Spain to fulfil those duties which, as possessing a territory adjacent to the United States, she was by the law of nations and by express treaty stipulations bound to perform.
During the late war between the United States and Great Britain, Spain permitted or could not prevent a British force from landing at Pensacola itself, the principal port of Florida, although its entrance was defended by forts and batteries, and from invading thence the territory of the United States. At two different times during that war and subsequent to its termination, though expressly bound by treaty to do it, even by force, she did not or could not restrain the Indian tribes inhabiting Florida from violating twice the peace with the United States and from carrying twice a savage war against their frontiers. Although the ports of Florida were under the colonial system generally shut up against foreign vessels, she permitted the harbor of St. Mary’s and Amelia Island to become the resort of all those who frequented it for the sole purpose of violating the laws of the United States during the period (1808 to 1812) in which they were endeavoring by the pacific measures of embargo, non-importation, and non-intercourse to obtain a revocation of the unlawful decrees of the belligerent powers and to avert the necessity of a recourse to war. Finally, she could not prevent a band of adventurers, led by McGregor and acting under color of the pretended commission of a government which did not exist, from occupying that same Amelia Island with the intention to make a harbor, one-half of which did belong to the United States, an asylum for smugglers, slave-traders, and sea-robbers.
It was then that the government of the Union, after having expelled the intruders, determined to keep possession of that portion of territory, for the immediate purpose of preventing similar outrages, and with the intention to continue the occupation until they had obtained reparation for the injuries sustained and security against their recurrence. The moderation of the United States in not resorting to more efficient measures and in not extending the occupation beyond what was absolutely necessary for their protection, their forbearance under the vexatious delays which attended the ratification of the treaty for the cession of the whole province which had been soon after concluded, are well known to the world; and it must be acknowledged that these circumstances did not at least lessen their right to exercise that jurisdiction which the occupancy had given to them.
That the place where the Apollon was seized was embraced in the occupation by the United States is equally evident.
The middle of the river St. Mary’s, from its source to the Atlantic Ocean, was the boundary established by treaty between the United States and the Spanish colony of Florida. A spacious harbor, through the middle of which the boundary-line extended, is formed by the waters of the ocean at the mouth of that river. It is bounded on the Florida side, first, in coming from the sea, by Amelia Island (on which is the village, fort, and port of Fernandino), and higher up by the southern side of the river, on which are found only a few scattered farms; and on the opposite side, first by Cumberland Island, and higher up by the northern side of the river, on which is situated the American town and port of St. Mary’s. The spot where the Apollon was seized, and where she had proceeded after having anchored for some days opposite Fernandino, was higher up within the said harbor, on the southern side of St. Mary’s River, in an inlet of the same called Bell’s River, and about midway between the Spanish town of Fernandino and the American town of St. Mary’s.
It would have been absurd on the part of the United States, when forcibly taking possession of Amelia Island and of the only fortified portion of the harbor, not to have extended their occupancy and jurisdiction to the whole. They had occupied and continued their occupation not for the protection of Spain against McGregor, but for their own against the repeated outrages and injuries which they had experienced. If, as has already been stated, they were cautious not to extend the occupation beyond what was requisite, they would at least carry it as far as was necessary for the attainment of the object in view. The placing a garrison in the only fortified place of the harbor, by giving them, combined with the naval force stationed there, the command of the whole, was sufficient for that purpose, and unless that purpose was attained there would have been no object in maintaining a partial and useless possession. It would be preposterous to suppose that after having taken that strong measure they should have suffered another McGregor, or British vessels coming from the West Indies, which were and still are excluded from the ports of the Union, or vessels laden with slaves intended to be landed on their shores, to pass under the cannon of Fernandino, to proceed quietly one or two leagues higher up within the same harbor, and there undisturbed to carry into effect the same illegal practices or criminal acts to prevent which had been the object of the occupation.
The military occupation of Amelia Island and its avowed object are, therefore, alone sufficient to establish the fact of the occupancy of the whole harbor and of the extension of a corresponding jurisdiction. But of this there is also direct and incontrovertible evidence. After a deliberate examination of the subject by the government of the United States, and with a full knowledge of the intentions of some foreigners in that respect, it was deemed proper to remove any doubts which might still be entertained; and the collector of the customs of St. Mary’s was accordingly, as early as the 6th of May, 1818, directed by instructions emanating from the President “to enforce the revenue laws upon all vessels entering the river St. Mary’s, without regard to the side of the river in which they might anchor.” This order, which was strictly enforced, and to which there was but one exception, dictated by motives of courtesy, in favor of Spanish vessels, did effectually prevent any illicit attempt to evade in that quarter the revenue laws of the United States, and, although affecting particularly the British commerce, had always been submitted to without opposition or remonstrance till the arrival of the Apollon. It is evident that although neither the assumption of jurisdiction nor the corresponding instructions had any special reference to French vessels, they were clearly embraced in both, and could not consistently have been excepted.
The Apollon having, for a presumed violation of the revenue laws of the United States, and for the purpose of being brought to a trial for that presumed offence, been seized, after having entered the river St. Mary’s, and whilst at an anchor on the southern side thereof, in a place which, though in Florida, was included in that portion of the province which had been occupied by the United States and over which they had exercised exclusive jurisdiction for more than two years preceding, there has not been in that act any infraction whatever of the acknowledged law of nations; the complaint preferred on that occasion having, it is presumed, been grounded on the erroneous supposition that the place where the seizure was made was without the actual jurisdiction of the United States.
Whether Captain Edou had actually committed any infraction of the revenue laws of the United States, which made his ship liable to confiscation, is another question, within the exclusive competence of the tribunals, and altogether distinct from that which has been here considered. Supposing, what is not admitted, that he had committed no such infraction, the seizure, if made, as it is believed has been demonstrated, within the actual jurisdiction of the United States, could give rise to no other species of complaint than if a similar process had on strong presumption, although founded in error, taken place in the port of New York.
It is not believed that any serious argument will be attempted to be drawn from the alleged creation by the Spanish authorities of a pretended port, subsequent to the arrival of the Apollon in St. Mary’s River, and for the special purpose of enabling her to evade the laws and regulations of the Union. It was the natural effect of the occupation and assumption of jurisdiction by the United States to exclude any other concurrent authorities or jurisdiction. They were accordingly excluded; and if any attempt had been made by Spain herself to re-establish them, or, in other words, to resume the exercise of her authority in the territory occupied, the attempt would have been utterly disregarded, and either treated as a nullity or repelled by force, as the case might require. It happens, however, that even that suggestion cannot be supported. Florida was a dependence of the government of Cuba. The governor-general of that island, who was alone authorized to relax from the colonial system and to open new ports to foreign vessels, had been repeatedly applied to for that purpose by some inferior agents, who, blinded by their eagerness for illicit profits, had, it seems, absurdly supposed that the United States would acquiesce in that extraordinary project. But that superior officer, well knowing that this was tantamount to an attempt to resume possession of the territory occupied by the Union, had uniformly refused his assent. That pretended port was therefore established, if at all, by officers who had no authority to that effect; and the Apollon was, in fact, found and did land her cargo in a place from which foreign vessels were excluded by the Spanish laws and regulations then in force.
The motives of the agents alluded to will best appear from the letters of the principal amongst them (the Spanish consular agent at St. Mary’s) to a correspondent, which were forwarded to my government, and copies of which have, I believe, been given to Mr. Hyde de Neuville. That consular agent represents the establishment of that pretended new port as a continuation of the arrangement which had supported them (the smugglers and illicit traders) during the American embargo and non-intercourse and the war with Great Britain, and under which they had acted to a vast extent from 1805 to 1815; and he further expresses his hope that the information, when it has reached France, may have a great tendency there to delay the negotiations on an adjustment of the tonnage difficulties. How far Captain Edou participated in these expectations I will not pretend to say. But he made himself a party to the plan by acting, so far as related to his ship, under the guidance of, and in concert with, that consular agent, and by going in person to St. Augustine to solicit the establishment of the pretended port.
The first decision of the American government in his case had no reference to any presumed infraction of the revenue laws of the United States, and did not, therefore, direct that his ship should be seized. It bears date the 9th of September, 1820, and simply states, what was sufficiently obvious, that the Apollon was embraced by the instructions already quoted of the 6th May, 1818,—that is to say, that the revenue laws should be enforced upon her without regard to the side of the river in which she might anchor. But after the ship had been seized for a presumed infraction of those laws, and when application was made for her release, government was in possession of the above-mentioned letters of the Spanish consular agent; the question was not whether the ship was embraced by the instructions, but whether an exception should be made in her favor; and it will not certainly be deemed harsh that under all the circumstances of the case, such as they were then known, it should have been left to be decided by the ordinary tribunals.
The ship has since been acquitted by a decision of the court for the district of Georgia. I have not seen the decree, but, from the manner in which it is mentioned in the despatches from my government, I am authorized to say that the inference which seems to have been drawn, that the decision implied that the seizure was illegal, or in any degree affected the main question, is erroneous. Indeed, there are many other obvious grounds on which an acquittal might have been pronounced in the first instance. Sufficient proof of the facts may not have been adduced; the facts proven might constitute an attempt to infringe the laws, and not a positive infraction; the infraction, if any was proven, might subject the captain to a penalty, and not the ship to be forfeited; there might be an omission or defect in the revenue laws, which rendered the provisions supposed to have been violated inapplicable to the case in question. In either of those cases, or if there was a doubt in the mind of the judge, who knew that there was an appeal from his decision, he would pronounce an acquittal.
Whatever may have been the grounds of the decree of that court, certain it is that the government of the United States was of opinion that on an appeal to the superior tribunal a decision would be had against the vessel; and that the President, in declining a further prosecution of the case, has been impelled by no other motive than that of removing what might be made an obstacle to pending negotiations, and of giving an additional proof of the earnest desire of the United States to entertain the most friendly relations with France, and to terminate by amicable arrangement the difficulties which have arisen in the commercial intercourse between the two countries.
I request your Excellency to accept the renewed assurances of the distinguished consideration with which, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, July 2, 1821.
I have the honor to enclose the copy of the letter I wrote the 28th ultimo to Mr. Pasquier on the subject of the Apollon:
Some of the observations are in reply to those made by him in our last interview; but you will perceive that I have generally taken rather new ground. All that could be said with respect to the effect of the non-ratified treaty with Spain was already contained in your communications, and you are aware that the doctrine is not generally admitted in Europe. I thought it equally dangerous and inconsistent with our general principles to assert that we had a right to seize a vessel for any cause whatever, short of piracy, in a place where we did not previously claim jurisdiction; and it appeared to me, from the general facts as well as from the documents transmitted, that we could with great propriety maintain the position that the pretended port of St. Joseph was included within the limits of our previous occupancy. I have at the same time brought in view the principal feature of the conspiracy to evade and violate our laws, and said nothing tending to lessen the force of the arguments heretofore used. There was, it seems to me, an intrinsic difficulty in the case, owing to the want of an Act of Congress extending at least the revenue laws of the United States to the places and waters occupied or claimed. This may give rise to an application for indemnity on the part of the parties, which would, however, be only a private claim, to be discussed when those of our citizens shall be taken into consideration by this government.
I had in the conversation with Mr. Pasquier alluded to the seizures at St. Sebastian’s, with the ostensible view of showing our consistency in considering the actual possession as superseding what may be called the legal title, since, whilst asking indemnity in that case for a groundless and unjust seizure and sequestration, we had made no separate demand for the supposed violation of the Spanish territory, had not considered the government of Spain as responsible, had made, indeed, no application to it for indemnity in that respect. My real object was, however, to remind this government of the little right they had to show or to affect such susceptibility in the case of the Apollon, particularly when it was recollected that this vessel was without the least delay brought to a fair trial before an independent tribunal, whilst we had in vain applied for ten years for a similar measure of common justice, which continued to be denied us even by the existing government. Upon reflection, I thought it sufficient to have alluded verbally to that subject. Our ground was strong enough in the case of the Apollon, without recurring to any considerations drawn from the conduct of the French, and I did not wish to run the risk of lessening in the smallest degree our claims for indemnities by using arguments which might have the appearance of justifying our acts by theirs, and of thereby suggesting some ground of justification for these.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 15th September, 1821.
Nothing has taken place here respecting our affairs since my despatch of 2d of July last.
I have formerly mentioned that Mr. Mertens, late partner of Mr. Ridgeway’s house at Antwerp, had opened a negotiation for the sale of the claims arising from the property consigned to the said house, which had been sequestered at the same time and under the same circumstances as Mr. Gracie’s ships consigned to Mr. Parish’s house. Mr. Mertens, having obtained the consent of the American owners, wrote again to me on the subject; and I have the honor to enclose copies of his letter, of my answer, and of his reply. The Algerine claim to which he alludes was one the payment of which, although recognized by a solemn treaty, the parties in vain tried for several years to obtain. But as soon as it had been purchased by an association of French subjects residing in Paris, the sum necessary for its discharge was brought by the Ministers as an item of the budget, and has been accordingly voted by the legislative body. I have tried to ascertain whether the purchasers were not agents employed by this government with a view to discharge the debt with a sum less than its amount. So far as I have been able to obtain information on that point, it appears that they were speculators and had purchased on their own account, and that the claim, though admitted, is not yet finally liquidated and paid. Through what influence they were enabled to obtain that in which the original foreign creditors had failed I am unable to say; but that they do possess such influence is certain, both from that fact and from the offer of 50 per cent. on the capital which they have made to Mr. Mertens for the Antwerp sequestrations.
As Baron Louis, when Minister of Finances, had rejected Mr. Parish’s application for Mr. Gracie’s claim on the ground of an order of the council of state for a transfer of the proceeds of the sequestered Antwerp cargoes from the caisse d’amortissement to the treasury, which order he considered as tantamount to a condemnation, I was desirous to obtain a literal copy of it, in order to judge what foundation there was for that extraordinary inference. The enclosed copy of a decree dated at Trianon on the 5th of August, 1810, which has never been published, nor, to my knowledge, communicated to our ministers or government, was obtained through a private channel, and stated to be the order in question. On reading it, I was satisfied that could not be, since its 5th enacting clause confines its operation to American vessels which had entered French ports subsequent to the 20th March (probably May), 1809, the whole decree being indeed founded on the pretence of reprisals on account of the Act of Congress of that date, and the Antwerp vessels and cargoes having been seized in 1807. I am told, however, that there is another unpublished decree of July, 1810, applicable to those vessels, and of which Mr. Gracie hopes to obtain a copy.
But the Trianon decree was intended for the St. Sebastian, Amsterdam, and other cases of the same period. It is not a condemnation either in form or in substance; but it certainly announces the intention to condemn; it bears date the same day on which it was officially communicated to our minister that the Berlin and Milan decrees would be revoked on the first day of the ensuing November; and no one can suppose that if it had been communicated or published at the same time, the United States would, with respect to the promised revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees, have taken that ground which ultimately led to the war with Great Britain. It is indeed unnecessary to comment on such a glaring act of combined injustice, bad faith, and meanness as the enacting and concealment of that decree exhibits; and I cannot suppose that it will ever be brought forward by this government for the purpose of repelling our claims to indemnity, especially as the grounds assumed for the measure are evidently mere pretences and altogether untenable. Yet when I first conversed, in 1816, with the Duke of Richelieu on the subject of our claims, he alluded to a statement prepared in his bureau for him, in which the Act of Congress of March, 1809, was mentioned as having afforded cause for reprisals.
The copy of the Trianon decree was given to a friend of Mr. Parish by the Duke of Bassano, then secretary of the council.
I enclose a Greek copy and a French translation of an appeal of the Greeks to the citizens of the United States.
I have the honor, &c.
DÉCISION DU 5 AOÛT, 1810.
Vu le rapport ci-dessus fait au1 conseil de commerce et des manufactures, d’où il résulte:
1. Que le gouvernement des États-Unis ne s’est pas borné par son acte du 1er mars, 1809, à ordonner qu’à dater du 20 mai suivant les bâtiments et marchandises françaises qui entreraient dans les ports seraient mis sous le séquestre, mais qu’il a ordonné la confiscation des dits bâtiments et marchandises:—
2. Qu’il a établi par le même acte que lorsque les communications avec la France viendrait à se rétablir, les confiscations continueraient à avoir leur effet:—
3. Que l’acte du 1er mars, 1809, a été mis en exécution toutes les fois que l’occasion s’en est présentée, non-seulement contre les marchandises, mais aussi contre les bâtiments français:—
Nous avons ordonné et ordonnons ce qui suit:
1. Les fonds provenants des ventes des marchandises américaines qui ont été effectuées jusqu’à ce jour, et dont le montant avait été mis en dépôt à la caisse d’amortissement, seront transportés au trésor public.
2. Les marchandises américaines qui sont mis sous le séquestre seront mises en vente, et les fonds en provenants versés au trésor public.
3. Les bâtiments américains sur le sort desquels il n’avait point été statué jusqu’à ce jour, seront également mis en vente et les fonds en provenants versés au trésor public.
4. Attendu que l’acte des États-Unis du 1er mars, 1809, ne contient aucune disposition contre les équipages de nos bâtiments, voulant toujours traiter les États-Unis aussi favorablement qu’il est possible, et n’usant qu’à regret du droit de représaille à leur égard, nous entendons que les équipages des bâtiments américains entrés dans nos ports ne soient point considérés comme prisonniers, mais soient envoyés dans leur patrie.
5. Les dispositions ci-dessus seront exécutées à l’égard de tous les bâtiments américains entrés et séquestrés dans nos ports depuis le 20 mars,1 1809, jusqu’au 1er mai de la présente année 1810, date de l’acte par lequel les États-Unis ont révoqué celui du 1er mars, 1809.
6. À l’avenir et jusqu’au 1er novembre prochain, époque fixée par la lettre de notre ministre des relations extérieures au plenipotentiaire des États-Unis pour la révocation de nos décrets de Berlin et de Milan (dans le cas où les conditions établies dans la dite lettre seraient remplies), les navires américains pourront entrer dans nos ports; mais leur déchargement ne pourra avoir lieu, à moins qu’ils ne soient munis d’une license signée de notre main, que sur un rapport fait en2 conseil de commerce, constatant qu’ils n’ont pas été dénationalisés par leur soumission aux arrêts du conseil britannique, et qu’ils n’out point contrevenu à nos décrets de Berlin et de Milan.
En notre palais de Trianon, le 5 août, 1810.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 26th September, 1821.
I had the honor to receive your despatches numbered from 38 to 41 inclusive, and also No. 43. They were all transmitted, though not all at the same time, from Brest to the Minister of Foreign Affairs by Mr. Roth, who has not yet arrived here.
The despatch No. 42, which has not yet been received, related, it is presumed, to the negotiation with Mr. de Neuville, as there seems to be a chasm in your correspondence with him.
You have, as I had anticipated, taken rather different ground from mine in the case of the Apollon. They are not, however, contradictory, and I was induced to assume that which I did principally from the tenor of my conversation with Mr. Pasquier, as he appeared to insist that whatever might have been the intentions of Captain Edou, or even the acts committed by him whilst off Amelia Island, the seizure of the vessel in a place not within the jurisdiction of the United States was a violation of the law of nations and an insult to the French flag. I incline to the opinion that their demand for reparation, if urged at all, shall be confined to that of indemnity for a private wrong sustained by an individual. For the justice of that claim Mr. Pasquier appeared to rely on the decree of acquittal by the court; but, Captain Edou having selected as a proper mode of redress a suit for damages against the seizing officers, there can be no difficulty in repelling an application for indemnity in another shape.
Your arguments on the main question, arising from the Louisiana Treaty, appear to me as perspicuous and conclusive as those of Mr. de Neuville are weak and unintelligible. But you have resorted to two collateral reasons, one drawn from the Constitution of the United States, the other from a distinction between the special and general favors which may be granted to other foreign powers, on both which I will beg leave, in a subsequent letter, to submit some observations to your consideration. The final proposal of Mr. de Neuville, to postpone that subject to a future negotiation, is the most favorable omen that has yet appeared of a disposition on the part of this government to come to some reasonable arrangement on the question of navigation.
I wish, more than from Mr. Pasquier’s conversation I have reason to hope, that they will also treat that question by itself, and without mixing with it demands for a general diminution in the rate of duties on French produce or manufactures, or for any other alteration in the tariff than what applies to the subject under discussion. The complaints already made to the cortes of Portugal of the rate of our duties on Madeira wine are a proof of the inconveniences arising from any concession to any nation in that respect. Nor do I believe that this government would be satisfied with a fair reciprocity giving them no advantage over either ourselves or other nations. I do not think that they would admit, as the sole condition, the principle that French produce and manufactures imported in the United States, and American produce and manufactures imported into France, should pay no higher duties than similar articles the produce or manufactures of other countries. To the proposal of laying a higher duty on China than on French silk manufactures, you had assented, on condition that the sale of American tobacco should be released from the monopoly of the Administration and be made common as all other articles. If this offer was intended as an indirect rejection of the French proposals, it would have the effect in view; but if seriously made, I must say that it was inadmissible on the part of France. It cannot be expected that she will subvert a system of imposition tested by experience, and which yields a net revenue of forty millions of francs. This government cannot, as is done in England, forbid the cultivation of tobacco within its territory. It is indeed limited to those Departments where it was found to exist, and, as a compensation for the restrictions under which it is necessarily laid there for fiscal purposes, the Administration is obliged to employ in the manufacture of the article five-sixths of domestic and only one-sixth part of foreign tobacco. It is this regulation which has so much affected our trade in that article with France, and reduced the consumption of tobacco of the United States here from 24 thousand hogsheads, as was the case before the Revolution, to about 5 thousand hogsheads of the same weight. Before the Revolution, as now, tobacco was cultivated in some provinces—Alsace, Flanders, &c.—which had been acquired by treaties; they were, with respect to revenue, considered as foreign, not being, on the one hand, subject to the monopoly of the general farms, as then called, whilst on the other their tobacco was considered as foreign in the residue of France, and not purchased by the farm because of very inferior quality. The abolition of all privileges and of every distinction between provinces, as well as of all internal custom duties from one to the other, has necessarily led to the present system of revenue on tobacco.
By that system, government, being the sole manufacturers of tobacco and the sole sellers of the manufactured article, are of course the only purchasers either of domestic or foreign manufactured tobacco for home consumption. The cultivators must beforehand declare the number of acres to be planted; their crop is constantly watched, and the Administration has a right to purchase the whole or part of it at a fixed price, which leaves always a fair profit to the planter for the part thus sold. But he must necessarily export, unless he chooses to burn, what is not purchased by the Administration. In the same manner all the tobacco imported in France can, for home consumption, be sold only to government. When imported, it is deposited in public stores; and that is what is called the entrepôt. Whilst there, it may be freely and is very often sold to any persons, foreigners or French, who wish to speculate on the article. But it is never removed from the entrepôt but for exportation, unless when purchased by the Administration. Considered as a revenue system, it is perfectly well calculated for the object intended, and it affords sufficient protection to the cultivators. For if the monopoly was abolished and our tobacco freely introduced, the home cultivation would at once be prostrated, or at least greatly reduced. The proposal to substitute licensed manufacturers for the Administration was rejected, after a debate in which the whole subject was discussed with great ability; and we would have gained nothing by the change, as we would have been obliged to sell exclusively to those manufacturers for home consumption.
Reverting to the question of navigation, it is difficult to ascertain how far the limited and circuitous intercourse now existing presses on France; and yet it is on that pressure we must rely for an equitable arrangement. I am assured that the mercantile interest of Havre begins to be tired and to wish for an accommodation, although pride may prevent an open avowal of their wishes. Many French vessels continue to go to Louisiana, partly under an expectation that the American extra tonnage duty is contrary to the treaty and that the courts of the United States will decide in their favor. Adding to these those which come from foreign ports (out of Europe) with cotton of the United States, I have no doubt that they fall short of the American vessels which bring produce to English and Dutch ports, imported afterwards in France, and that, compared to French vessels still employed in the trade with us, the balance, if I may so express myself, is in our favor. But the greatest part of our produce intended for France is, I apprehend, imported in British and other foreign vessels, sometimes owned, very often freighted, by French houses. They will not feel all the inconveniences arising from the present state of things until we shall have stopped that species of intercourse. With respect to the commodities consumed, I believe that France consumes the same quantity of our produce as heretofore, and that our consumption of French produce and manufactures has been considerably lessened.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 27th September, 1821.
I had the honor to receive your despatch No. 40, enclosing a copy of a letter from Mr. Connell, as agent for sundry insurance companies having claims on the French government.
I have some reason to believe that that gentleman’s letter to you grew out of the communications made by Mr. Mertens to the persons interested in the Antwerp sequestrations. He was not, however, sanguine in his expectations of obtaining justice from the French government, since he wrote for the express purpose of obtaining the approbation of the parties for his intended sale of the claims to some French subjects, at a loss of about half the principal and all the interest. Mr. Mertens has informed me that he has obtained the consent of those parties, amongst whom the insurance companies represented by Mr. Connell must be included. I beg leave to refer to my former despatches on that subject, and to my correspondence with Mr. Mertens, which has already been transmitted to the Department of State.
Whatever may have been the source whence Mr. Connell derived his information, he is certainly mistaken in thinking that there has appeared any symptom on the part of the French government to do us justice, even in the Antwerp cases, which are certainly amongst those against which it is almost impossible to raise any objection. The favorable inference he draws from the partial repayment to Hamburg, and from the admission of the claim of the Algerine Jews, is also, unfortunately, erroneous. I have already stated in a former despatch that this last claim had been recognized by a former treaty, notwithstanding which, and the evident solicitude of the government to cultivate friendly relations with the Barbary powers, it had not been admitted by the present government until after it had been purchased by a company of French speculators, the same who offer to purchase the Antwerp claims. With respect to the payment made to Hamburg, it was included amongst the cases embraced by the treaties of Paris of the year 1815. But, on account of the enormous amount of reclamations presented under those conventions, they were all reduced, either by virtue of private agreements, or, more generally, by decisions of the Duke of Wellington, who, by common consent, acted as an arbitrator to apportion the gross sum which France agreed to pay, and the four allied powers [agreed] should be received, in lieu of what she would have had to pay in consequence of the awards made by the several commissioners appointed by virtue of the treaties of 1815.
Both transactions were imposed upon France by superior force; the original treaties when she was invaded and half her territory occupied by the armies of the allies; the stipulated payment of a gross sum in lieu of the strict performance of those treaties, when an army of 100,000 men still occupied her principal fortresses; and this stipulation was made the express condition of their evacuation. I must add, and the observation has heretofore been made, that it would be extremely dangerous to refer to those stipulations and to the payments made by virtue thereof for precedents applicable to our claims. Of this the Duke of Richelieu was aware; and he drew an argument against us from the circumstance that, even in treaties which necessity alone had compelled France to sign, claims similar to ours had not been included, a certain class of vessels burnt at sea (not the Dolly and Telegraph) only excepted. My answer to this remark is unconnected with the subject of this letter, and will be found in my correspondence of the year 1816.
These observations are made only in order to show that there are no new circumstances giving a more favorable aspect to the prosecution of our claims, or making this a more auspicious time than heretofore to urge their settlement. In one respect the present moment is unfavorable; the state of the pending negotiations on other subjects is not calculated to render this government more flexible on this; and there is some reason to believe that their principal object in pressing their newly-raised pretensions under the 8th Article of the Louisiana Treaty is to obtain an equivalent for its abandonment, either in commercial advantages, or in a relaxation of our demands for indemnity.
I will, as heretofore, be ready to seize any proper opportunity that may offer to urge the general question, and more particularly a decision with respect to the Antwerp claims, which are now separated from the others and specially under the consideration of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I can only press a decision, as, until some answer shall have been made by this government, I have nothing to add to the arguments urged, not only in my general application, but in my letters to that Department on that particular class. The manner in which the demand should be urged may also vary according to the final result of the negotiation pending at Washington.
Nothing could gratify me more than to bring the subject to some determinate conclusion before my departure: nothing is more easy than to write to this government, pressing our right to have, at all events, an answer; this mode could long ago have been pursued had I only consulted my own feelings; if, using the discretion left to me, I have waited for what might be considered a favorable opportunity, not to bring the subject before the present government and urge the justice of our claims (which has been repeatedly done), but to demand a final answer, it has been solely for the sake of the parties interested, and in order not to place their claims on still worse footing than they already are.
Mr. Gracie has not yet obtained, although he has the promise of, a copy of the unpublished decree of July, 1810, by virtue of which it is suggested that the proceeds of the ships and cargoes sequestered at Antwerp were transferred from the caisse d’amortissement to the treasury.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 23d October, 1821.
I have the honor to enclose a copy of a note I addressed to Mr. Pasquier the 15th instant. It is much longer than I had at first contemplated; but as the result of the negotiation seemed to depend on the final instructions this government might now send to Mr. de Neuville, I thought it important to state fairly the question at issue, once more to refute the arguments used principally here in support of the high discriminating duties for which France still insists, and at the same time to point out, without committing my government, a mode which might have a chance of being acceded to on its part.
Discriminating duties on the value of the merchandise are undoubtedly the most favorable to the United States; but the basis proposed by Mr. de Neuville, and which you rejected, that of a similar reduction on both sides, preserving in each country the mode heretofore adopted by each, is, if the principle alone is taken into consideration without reference to the rate of duty, less disadvantageous to us than the other basis, founded on both sides on tonnage duties, of which you had given the option. In intimating, therefore, to Mr. Pasquier that if the rate of discriminating duties laid in France on the American navigation could be agreed on there would be no difficulty in settling the rate of duties to be laid in America on the French shipping, it was my intention to give a hope that if that first point was arranged, the principle of the basis proposed by Mr. de Neuville might perhaps be admitted. This would cost us nothing; and, if considered by this government as a concession on our part, may help them to extricate themselves from the situation in which they are, and facilitate an accommodation. That, however, depends altogether on their disposition to agree to reasonable terms with respect to the rate of duty; and I cannot expect that they will make any communication to me on that point. It is their interest, in order that it may in that way reach you, to impress on me the opinion that they will adhere to a high rate. On that question, which appears to me the only important one, the rate of the French discriminating duties to which we can agree, you must ultimately decide, and our merchants and captains are the best judges of the extent to which we may accede. I have in my note to Mr. Pasquier fairly, though in civil terms, stated the two principal causes of the inferiority of the French navigation, viz., the obstinacy of government in keeping in force ancient and ridiculous regulations, and the total ignorance of maritime affairs of the ship-owners, particularly those residing in Paris. I might to these have added the indolent and expensive habits of the sea-captains and other officers. Those several considerations taken together certainly give us for the present a decided superiority; and I incline to the opinion that a reduction on both sides of the discriminating duties to one-fourth of the rate at which they stood before the late extraordinary tonnage duties would still leave us more than one-half of the navigation. You will find that the surcharge on our cotton imported in vessels of the United States would at that rate be about two centimes, or seven-twentieths of a cent, per American pound.
It is true that an agreement founded on this basis, or on any other short of a total abrogation of the discriminating duties, will give us but a nominal equality; and I think that if we can pass such laws as will restore it in reality, it would be much better to wait until this government had become disposed to make an arrangement on that principle. But they are aware of the difficulties which we have to encounter; they know that we cannot retaliate directly by discriminating duties either on the French articles imported or on the American products exported in French vessels. Extreme means, such as an exclusion of those vessels or a prohibition of French manufactures, would be too hostile. Yet that something must be done is evident. The comparative statement contained in the latter part of my note to Mr. Pasquier shows the enormous difference now existing in favor of French vessels; and I annex the calculation on which it is founded. It is to be hoped that some efficient measures may be devised to counteract those adopted by France. No others have suggested themselves to me but a prohibition of the exportation of our cotton to American ports, and an increase of tonnage duty on the French vessels equal to the French surcharge of sixty-two to sixty-seven francs per ton, with a discretionary power to the President to increase it still further, so as to make always the duty equal to any rate to which this government might raise their own. I beg leave to observe that there is an error in your letter of 13th of August last to Mr. de Neuville. Alluding to my notes of 7th and 8th July, 1820, to Mr. Pasquier, you say that I had shown that the French surcharge, even if reduced to one-half, would still be nearly equal to the price of the freight: it was the whole of the surcharge, and not its half, that I had considered as equal to the freight.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 13th November, 1821.
The first time I saw Mr. Pasquier after he had received my note of the 15th October last, he mentioned that he intended to have a conference with me on that subject, and that he was collecting some materials that might enable him to discuss it. He repeated in substance the same thing a few days after, and added that he hoped to have it in his power to invite me to an interview within four or five days. I understood, though he did not say so positively, that that conference was to precede the decision of this government on the final instructions to be sent to Mr. de Neuville. A fortnight has, however, elapsed without my hearing further from Mr. Pasquier. In the mean while an ordinance has been issued continuing till the 1st of April next the premium on the importation by French vessels of cotton from American entrepôts. This being only a continuation of the existing state of things, it may be inferred that the project of increasing the difference of duty between the importations from American and European entrepôts has been abandoned. What may be the dispositions of this government on the main question I cannot conjecture; but it appears to me that the irritation arising from that cause has subsided, and will at least no longer form an obstacle to the discussion of our reclamations for indemnities. The ambassador of Russia continues to appear anxious that an arrangement may take place, and, as he speaks to me about it on every opportunity which offers, I presume that he holds a similar language to this government.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 15th November, 1821.
. . . I also enclose the copy of an extract of the unpublished decree of the 22d of July, 1810, by virtue of which the proceeds of the sequestered American property, including that seized at Antwerp, were directed to be paid into the treasury and applied [to] public purposes. It appears to be that, the substance of which at least was known to Baron Louis, the former Minister of Finances, and on which he founded his opinion, as communicated to Mr. Parish, that the property was definitively condemned. But although that decree, which is only a supplementary budget without legislative interference, and refers exclusively to matters of finance, must necessarily be in the possession of that Department, it seems that, not having a precise recollection of the details, they have not thought of looking there for the order in question, and that supposing that there must have been a special decree for that purpose, which they cannot of course find, since it does not exist, they have not been able to furnish the Department of Foreign Affairs with the copy which has been repeatedly asked for. Mr. Rayneval, the Under-Secretary of State, who is to make a report on Mr. Parish’s memorial, and on my letter to Mr. Pasquier of the 9th of May, 1820, which accompanied it, assured me not long ago that the want of that document was the only cause of the delay, and that he really believed that there was no such decree. I had not then the enclosed extract, and, as it has been obtained confidentially from the Duke of Bassano, I am not authorized to communicate it to this government even if it was thought proper to do it. So far as relates to the mere question of right, it cannot certainly be affected by the decree; but one of the principal grounds on which I have been able to separate the Antwerp claims from all others without injuring these is, that not only the claimants had not violated any of the unlawful decrees of Bonaparte, but that their claims were not affected by any subsequent act of his, and it would, therefore, be more convenient not to have to encounter any argument, however fallacious, which may be drawn from that source. This inconvenience would have been altogether avoided, and the order of July, 1810, would probably never have been alluded to, had it not been for the unfortunate application of Mr. Parish to the Department of Finances.
Having, upon the whole, reason to believe that the report of Mr. de Rayneval cannot be unfavorable, and that the dispositions of this government are rather more friendly than during the last fifteen months, I have concluded to press the subject at this time, and gave to Mr. Gracie a letter of introduction for Mr. de Rayneval, copy of which is enclosed. This gentlemen has, in a first interview, appointed another for the 19th instant, in which he has promised to state whether there was any objection, and, in his opinion, any necessity for my writing another official letter to Mr. Pasquier. You will see, by referring to that which I had written on the 9th of May, 1820, and which has not yet been answered, that it would be difficult at this stage of the business to adduce any new arguments, and that it is more eligible to wait till the objections are stated before an attempt is made to enforce and illustrate the ground which has already been taken.
I must add that, besides the motives just stated, I had another cogent reason to urge a decision at this time. You are already in possession of my correspondence with Mr. Mertens, and several circumstances which have lately come to my knowledge have impressed the belief that an extensive speculation was on foot for the purchase of our claims, and that persons whom I had not heretofore suspected might be concerned in it. I hope that my last letter to Mr. Mertens has already arrested the plan, and I will now be able to act in concert not only with Mr. Gracie, but also with Mr. John Connell, of Philadelphia, who arrived here two days ago, and who has powers of attorney from the insurance companies for a considerable portion of the claims arising from the sequestered cargoes consigned to the former house of Mr. Ridgeway, at Antwerp. There were in the whole seven sequestered there, four of which were consigned to his house and three to that of Mr. Parish. I have not seen the accounts of sales, but have been told that the amount exceeded four millions of francs.
I have the honor, &c.
EXTRAIT DU DÉCRET DU 22 JUILLET, 1810.
Seront versées dans la caisse des douanes pour le compte du trésor public, et affectées au service des exercices 1809 et 1810, les sommes provenantes:
1. De la vente des cargaisons américaines saisies à Anvers.
2. De la vente des cargaisons américaines remises par la Hollande.
3. De la vente des cargaisons des bâtiments américains saisis dans les ports de l’Espagne.
4. Du produit des saisies faites par la ligne des douanes en Hollande, et de celles qui seront faites par la même ligne, déduction faite de pour les troupes et les préposés, etc.
10. De la vente des bâtiments américains, ottomans et neutres, qui seront saisis dans les ports de la Méditerranée et de l’océan.
. . . Les autres produits ci-dessus detaillés, seront portés en recette comme produits extraordinaires des douanes affectés au service de 1810, etc., etc.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 16th November, 1821.
I received last evening a note from Mr. Pasquier inviting me for this morning at ten o’clock to a conference, from which I have just returned.
He read to me some observations on my letter to him of 15th of October last, tending to show by very vague, and in some respects incorrect, assertions that ship-building and provisions were dearer in France than in the United States; that the wages of seamen were equally high; and that from their habits the maintenance of French sailors on board was also more expensive than that of the Americans. The article of wine was the only one which appeared to me to make a difference in that respect.
He also attempted to show that taking in our four principal articles of exportation to France, cotton, tobacco, rice, and potash, the old French surcharge did not amount to much more than 60 francs per ton. I pointed out at once the error of the calculation, arising from their having supposed that a ship carried only at the rate of 500, instead of 800, kilogrammes of tobacco per ton.
He then said that the difference between the two governments might be considered as that between a reduction of that surcharge to one-half, as proposed by Mr. de Neuville, and the reduction to one-fourth, as proposed by you; and that the question was whether any middle ground could be agreed on, each government receding in part from that which had been taken by each. I observed to him that I had already stated in my letter that you had not proposed a reduction to one-fourth, but at least one-fifth, of the old French surcharge, since your proposition of a duty of 1½ per cent. on the value could not be estimated at more than a tonnage duty of 13 francs per ton. But he was under the impression that your other proposal was to agree to a tonnage duty of three dollars per ton. I insisted that you had by that proposition offered only a duty of 1½ dollars, and, as he could not at the moment recur to the copy of your letter of 3d of August to Mr. de Neuville, we were obliged to postpone the discussion until he had ascertained the fact. You will at once perceive that if the principle of a mutual receding from the ground heretofore taken is assumed, it is important to insist that your proposal did not go beyond what I have stated.
As it was suggested in the course of the conversation that an arrangement might perhaps be concluded here, I stated explicitly that at the time when the negotiation was carried on here my instructions did not authorize me to propose anything beyond a mutual complete abrogation of all the discriminating duties; that the conciliatory proposal to agree to a reduction had been made at Washington; that I knew nothing more of the final intentions of my government in that respect than what appeared on the face of those proposals; and that even if I was disposed to agree to any modification of them, it would be on my own responsibility, and without being able to give any assurances that such modification would be ratified.
But the conversation turned principally on the cases of the French vessels taken on the coast of Africa by the Alligator, Captain Stockton, and sent to the United States for adjudication on the pretence of their being concerned in the slave-trade. Mr. Pasquier said that there was a fatality attached to our affairs, which tended perpetually to impede an arrangement by throwing in the way incidents of the most irritating nature. He then expressed himself with uncommon warmth on the cases in question. The seizure of vessels under the French flag at a time of general peace was, he said, a flagrant and intolerable violation of the law of nations. Such pretension, if insisted upon by the United States, must necessarily be resisted. If it was only the unauthorized act of a sea-officer, it should have been immediately disavowed, the vessels restored, and reparation made. A reference to courts of justice was altogether improper and useless. France could not recognize the right of the tribunals of any country, not at the time a belligerent, to take cognizance of such cases. And, since it was the act of an officer of the United States, there could be no pretence for a trial before a court, and government might and ought at once to have ordered an immediate restitution. The capture itself, he also said, was indeed an act of piracy, and the parties concerned, some of whom had by the recapture of the vessels fallen into the hands of the French authorities, might with justice have been tried as pirates.
Knowing nothing of the facts but what had appeared in the newspapers, and so far as these went the whole proceeding being altogether unintelligible to me, and the seizure of these vessels appearing unjustifiable in itself and in flat contradiction with our refusal to agree to the proposal of England on the subject of the slave-trade, I avoided touching the main question otherwise than by saying that it was probable that the vessels had been seized as being really American, fitted in American ports, and owned by American citizens, and having surreptitiously obtained French papers. But there were other insinuations, which I repelled with as much warmth as they had been made. I told Mr. Pasquier that a pirate was he who acted without a commission from any government, and that an officer of the American navy might commit a wrong, for which redress could be obtained from his government, but never could or would be treated or considered as a pirate by any nation whatever; that without at all affirming that the cases in question came within the description of those of which the United States had a right to take cognizance, the assertion he had made was too broad, and that, on the same principle by which belligerent powers were in certain cases authorized to send in for adjudication and to try neutral vessels, cases might also occur, such as that of presumed piracy, which would in time of peace justify the seizure of vessels though apparently protected by the flag and papers of any nation; that there was no reason to complain of a reference to courts of justice, whose decision, whatever it might be, could not shelter our government from any just complaint against the conduct of its military or naval officers; that it must be perfectly immaterial to a foreign government whether, in conformity with our institutions, we preferred that mode to that of an administrative inquiry; that we would think it highly desirable could we find a similar remedy in France for injuries of a similar nature long since sustained, and for which the Administration had given no redress; and that, at all events, the temporary absence of the principal officers of the United States from the seat of government sufficiently accounted for the delay complained of.
I give nearly the substance of what was said, but not at all in the order in which it was said; for the conversation was extremely desultory, and there were several interruptions. Much of its warmth must, however, be ascribed to the national character; and it ended in an amicable manner. As I was taking leave, Mr. Pasquier requested me to write to you on the subject and to state how much irritation and mischief was produced by incidents of that kind. He said that he had a few days ago a meeting of persons (I understood eminent merchants) on the subject of an arrangement of our commercial affairs, to which, he was happy to say, they appeared very well disposed; but that they had expressed themselves with great heat on that occurrence, saying that it was impossible to know to what extent the Americans intended to carry their pretensions.
No mention was made of another incident which has lately taken place at Pensacola, but which tends to strengthen that feeling, and has been a subject of animadversion in other quarters. I have attempted to defend it by a recurrence to the fact that the Spanish authorities had, in 1803, carried away the archives of Louisiana contrary to the treaty; but permit me to say that, unless the military and naval officers of the United States are kept within proper bounds, our reputation of being the supporters of the principles of the law of nations will be lessened, and our friendly relations with other countries will often be inconveniently affected.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 24th November, 1821.
Mr. Pasquier invited me to a new conference, which took place this morning.
After some explanations respecting the tenor of your proposition to Mr. de Neuville, and the quantity of tobacco which a vessel usually carries per ton in the trade with France, on both which points Mr. Pasquier acknowledged that he had been led into errors, and seemed to agree nearly with my statement, we came to the main question, that of the mutual reduction of the discriminating duties heretofore imposed by each country to which it might be possible to agree.
I said that if I had been intrusted with a discretionary power on that point, which was not, however, the case, I would not certainly have agreed to a higher rate than one-fourth part of the duties now existing; and he stated that, although willing to go farther than Mr. de Neuville had proposed, he could not instruct him to agree to so great a reduction. The discussion which ensued consisted in little more than a repetition of the facts and arguments heretofore urged on both sides.
Mr. Pasquier finally observed that if no agreement was made, France would recur to more efficient measures than those heretofore adopted for the purpose of securing to her navigation the importation of American products, and that her Act of Navigation, which has, it seems, never been repealed, would be enforced in order to exclude British and other foreign vessels from participating in that trade. I reminded him of what had already been so explicitly stated in my letter of the 15th of October last, that the difference now existing between French and American vessels, between American and European entrepôts, was already enormous; that it was hardly possible that it should be submitted to any longer by the United States; and that if it was either increased directly, or brought into practical operation by the exclusion of foreign vessels, measures would most undoubtedly be immediately adopted to counteract the plans of France, either by forbidding the exportation of cotton to American entrepôts and by increasing the tonnage duties on French vessels, or by other means as efficient.
As Mr. Pasquier agreed that if this was done, and if both countries carried to the utmost this species of commercial warfare, it must end in a complete annihilation of the commerce between them, I took the liberty to represent to him that this event, however it might affect the United States, would be far more injurious to France. I observed that if she consumed instead of repelling our grain and other provisions, which we had the means of raising to a much greater extent than there was demand for them, the loss of her market would be sensibly felt; but that she took of our produce only what was indispensable for her wants and manufactures, or for which we could always find another market. Having reduced her consumption of foreign tobacco to the smallest possible quantity, and to that which was indispensable to enable her to manufacture that of her own growth, she took of course only the strongest and most valuable qualities of ours, for which it was well known that there was no substitute anywhere else. France would either directly or indirectly purchase the same quantity of that article of our growth, whatever restrictive measures might be adopted with respect to navigation. As to potash, the whole quantity made everywhere was hardly equal to the demand, and was not susceptible of any increase. If France purchased that of the Baltic instead of ours, the only consequence would be that what we had been in the habit of selling to her would be sold to Great Britain or other countries. The same remark would apply with nearly the same force to our rice, and with this addition, that it was of a superior quality to that of the growth of any other country. And with respect to cotton, the great article of American importation in France, an article so much wanted that its consumption had, notwithstanding the obstacles to the commercial intercourse, considerably increased last year, where would she find a substitute? The whole of her system of spinning and manufacturing was founded on our cotton, and must be altered before the attempt was made. The supply from the Levant, already insignificant, must be still more reduced on account of the state of that country. The Brazil cotton, very valuable for some manufactures, could not replace ours in others without affecting the quality and increasing the price. From India alone could a large supply be obtained; and supposing that the French manufacturers should learn how to clean and spin the cotton of that part of the world, still, its inferiority to ours was acknowledged, and it could not be imported to advantage even by the nations who know how to use it, except when, on account of a bad crop in America or of an extraordinary demand in Europe, the cotton of the United States rose much above its average price; that is to say, when the French market was no longer wanted to consume the surplus of what we raised. It was, in a word, utterly impracticable for France to exclude that article without materially injuring her manufactures, both with respect to quality and price, without renouncing every expectation to compete abroad with Great Britain and other nations, and without increasing the contraband importation in France of British goods, which even now could not be prevented to a considerable amount. But if France could not exclude our produce, she could with great facility lessen by her measures the consumption of the products of her soil and industry in the United States. It was only gradually and with difficulty that the habit of French wines was introduced there. For her brandies substitutes could be found in Spain, in West India rum, and, above all, in the increased use of spirits distilled from our own superabundant supply of grain. The danger of our using China instead of French silk stuffs, the most valuable of the exports of France to the United States, was acknowledged; and even the English manufacturers of silk were on the eve of coming in competition with theirs in foreign markets. We now at least, and for the first time, consumed a considerable quantity of French produce and manufactures, and equal in value to the articles of our own growth consumed by France. If the interdiction of our navigation continued, this last amount would not be considerably lessened, whilst our consumption of French merchandise would naturally and necessarily almost entirely cease.
What effect these remarks may have produced it is impossible for me to say; and amongst the persons on whose advice the Ministry relies in this instance there are some who are not perhaps sufficiently acquainted with the subject to understand or foresee the consequences of the system they have recommended. I have urged every argument and stated every fact which appeared material, and do not expect that anything more will at this time pass between this government and me in that respect. Mr. Pasquier gave me to understand that he would immediately prepare his instructions to Mr. de Neuville, and send them probably by the way of England.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 27th December, 1821.
The elections made under the last law having brought into the chamber of deputies a majority belonging to that portion of the royalists who have heretofore been designated by the name of Ultras, a total change of Ministry has taken place. From the time of my arrival here there had not been, notwithstanding several partial changes, any material alteration in the system of policy pursued by government. But the men now appointed, though selected amongst the most moderate of their own party, are of a different cast, and, unless controlled by the state of the country and by public opinion, would be disposed to adopt another course of measures, so far as relates to the internal administration of France.
There has not yet been time to ascertain what may be the views of the new Ministers towards the United States. I believe that Mr. Pasquier had completed the instructions intended for Mr. de Neuville, and that they have been sent. To me Mr. de Montmorency, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, has only spoken in general terms, expressing his wishes that the differences might be accommodated, and his great confidence in Mr. de Neuville. To others he has said that the negotiations pending with the United States were the most important affair belonging to his department, and that he was earnestly endeavoring to understand it thoroughly. I will in a few days ask him for a conference, and am in the mean while preparing a note on the subject of the Antwerp cases. This would have been sent sooner had I not been obliged to wait until the parties had supplied me with the necessary facts. There are still some important particulars on which I have not been able to obtain all the requisite information.
I have the honor, &c.
[1 ]Peut-être “par le conseil.” Note by A. G.
[1 ]Probablement “mai.”
[2 ]Ou, “au.”