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, 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.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
Paris, 14th January, 1822.
I have the honor to enclose the copy of a note which I wrote on the 10th instant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the subject of the Antwerp claims.1
The sales of the cargoes in question, including the estimated value of the potash and pearlash previously taken for the use of the War Department, and deducting the cotton sold to Fillietaz, for which compensation has already been made, amounted to near five millions of francs. The claim of Fillietaz appears to have been liquidated in the following manner. The sixth part was deducted from the principal; a reduction which was, as I understand, common to all the claims of the subjects of the Netherlands, the amount allowed under the convention of 1818 for that object not being sufficient to pay the whole of the claims which were admitted. For the five-sixths remaining, 5 per cent. stock was given, at the rate of 75 per cent. on its nominal value (which is precisely the same thing as if stock had been given for the claim without deduction at the rate of 90 per cent.), bearing interest, I think, from the 22d of September, 1818. The market price of stock when delivered (April, 1819) was about 67; it is now about 85 per cent. The price of foreign produce was so high in 1810, when the sales took place, that it brought from 100 to 200 per cent. advance on the prime cost. The claimants would therefore, notwithstanding the loss of interest and other deductions, be well compensated if their claim was admitted and liquidated on the same principle as that of Fillietaz.
The only other claims within my knowledge, with respect to which there has been no final condemnation either by the council of prizes or imperial decisions, are, 1st, the vessels and cargoes seized in 1810 at St. Sebastian and other Spanish ports in the possession of France, under color of reprisals for the Act of Congress of 1st March, 1809, and the sales of which amounted to about seven millions of francs; 2dly, four vessels and cargoes seized in Holland at the same time and under the same pretence, and which were delivered to the French government; with the amount of the proceeds of the sale of these I am not acquainted. These two descriptions and the Antwerp cargoes make up the sequestrations, the proceeds of which were directed by the decree of the 22d July, 1810, to be paid in public treasury; 3dly, the vessels burnt at sea before the Berlin decree and subsequent to the revocation of that and of the Milan decree; and the value of which is not ascertained, but is not believed to be considerable. There were three burnt after the revocation of the decrees, besides the Dolly and Telegraph; and four in 1805 by Admiral Lallemand. These last four and cargoes were valued at 627,000 francs, and, as the other neutral vessels burnt at the same time have been paid for under the convention of Paris, it is probable that the claim would be admitted if this government was not afraid of the precedent it would establish in favor of our other reclamations.
The claims for the sequestrations of St. Sebastian and Holland differ from that for the Antwerp cargoes, not as respects substantial justice, but in that, 1st, the first took place by virtue of, or were sanctioned by, a special decree (that of Rambouillet), and were made under color of reprisals; and, 2dly, the secret decree of the 5th of August, 1810, transmitted in my despatch No. 186, and the expression, confiscated, used in the Duke of Cadore’s letter to Mr. Armstrong of the 12th September of the same year, may afford an additional pretence to this government to say that the property was definitively condemned by that of Bonaparte. It is not, of course, my intention, in a despatch addressed to you, to state the obvious answers which may be made. My object is only to point out the objections which may, and probably will, be raised. With respect to the pretence of reprisals, it is sufficient to say that the Act of Congress of the 1st of March, 1809, was prospective, forbidding, after the 20th of May following, a certain intercourse, and affixing the penalty of confiscation in case of disobedience, whilst the Rambouillet decree was retrospective in its enactments and in its application. But, as that ground will principally be resorted to, as, indeed, the Duke of Cadore says expressly in his letter above mentioned that, as to the merchandise confiscated, the principles of reprisal must be the law in that affair, it would be important to ascertain whether, in point of fact, any one French vessel was actually confiscated for a violation of the Act of 1st of March, 1809. I presume that information may be obtained by addressing two circulars,—one to the clerks of the district courts, and one to the collectors of the customs.
But there are two grounds which have been or may be taken, and to which, as they would operate as a bar to all our claims, it was necessary particularly to attend. For that reason the suggestion that a payment in the treasury was tantamount to a condemnation was refuted at large in the enclosed note, and every fact collected which could bear on the subject. I could not answer directly in the same manner, and by arguments drawn from the law of nations and from the acts of this government, the other ground, which has been distantly hinted but not positively asserted, that the King’s government was not answerable for the acts of that of Bonaparte. But it is with that in view that I have alluded to the manner in which the arriéré has been paid, and to the indubitable fact that the existing government did continue to enjoy the benefit arising from the proceeds of the sequestered cargoes. This consideration, and the arguments to show that the payment in treasury was not a condemnation, are as applicable to the sequestrations under the Rambouillet decree as those of Antwerp.
I thought it expedient to speak tenderly of the conduct of the Minister of Finances (Gaudin, Duke of Gaëte) when the vessels arrived at Antwerp, because he has still some influence, is still employed as president of the bank, and may be called on by the present Ministers for explanations. But in saying, in another part of the note, that Baron Louis was not inconsistent with himself, and might, even in 1814, have considered the Antwerp cargoes as confiscated, I had less for object to soothe his feelings than to anticipate the objection which might be made,—that, in the report alluded to, the proceeds of the American sequestered cargoes were not enumerated amongst the deposits for which government was still responsible.
Although I have enumerated all the cases within my knowledge where actual condemnation had not taken place, I must add that it is possible that some vessels captured, and probable that some burnt at sea, whilst the Berlin and Milan decrees were in force, have not yet been definitively condemned. But there can be no expectation that indemnity will ever be obtained either for those or in any of the cases where there has been such condemnation. From all the documents I have yet seen, I do not believe that the amount of this last-mentioned class, after deducting the cases where the destination of the vessels was concealed, enemy’s property covered, or which generally might afford plausible grounds of condemnation, can exceed two millions of dollars in value. The Danish prizes and the vessels and cargoes seized at Naples are not included in that estimate. The amount of sequestrations and vessels burnt at sea, where no condemnation has taken place, may be estimated at about three millions of dollars. This last estimate cannot be far from the truth, since we know the amount of the two largest claims,—the St. Sebastian and the Antwerp sequestrations. The answer which this government may give to my last note will show whether we have anything to expect from its justice in any case whatever. For, if the Antwerp claim is rejected, there can be no expectation that they will voluntarily allow any other.
I have understood indirectly that the sufferers under the St. Sebastian sequestrations had made application to be paid out of the five millions of dollars allowed by the treaty with Spain. The government of that country had nothing to do with that transaction, which was the result of a French decree executed by French authorities in a part of Spain exclusively occupied and governed by France. And I apprehend, as the slightest pretences are resorted to, that the application may injure the claim here.
I have the honor, &c.
[1 ]This note will be found in American State Papers, vol. v. (Foreign Relations) pp. 301-306.