Front Page Titles (by Subject) GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS. - Albert Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2 
The Writings of Albert Gallatin, ed. Henry Adams (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1879). 3 vols.
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GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 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.