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, 10th July, 1822.
In the hasty answer (No. 206) which I had the honor to make to your despatch No. 45, I briefly stated the reasons which had induced me to think that the view which I had presented to the French government of the case of the Apollo was not incompatible with that taken by you on the same subject. On a more attentive perusal of your despatch, I perceive that you also consider it as doubtful whether the ground which I had assumed could be maintained by the fact. I presume this must allude to the position which, in my letter of 28th June, 1821, to Mr. Pasquier, I had assigned to Bell’s River and to the pretended port of St. Joseph’s. This at least seems to me to be the only fact, not notorious, which is asserted in that letter. For the assumption that our jurisdiction was extended to that spot by the act of taking possession of Amelia Island and by the order of the Treasury of May, 1818, is only an inference from the presumed fact, an inference which may be erroneous, and must rest on the arguments adduced to support it.
With respect to the presumed position of Bell’s River I may have been mistaken, as I had no map where that stream was designated, and had never heard of it before. Yet I would not have ventured on the assertion on which the whole argument rested, had I not had the strongest reasons to believe it correct; and these I beg leave, in my own justification, to state.
Mr. Clarke, the consular agent at Savannah, in his letter of 14th September, 1820, to the collector of St. Mary’s, informs him that a Spanish port of entry is established on the west side of Bell’s River, an arm of St. Mary’s. In his private letter of 15th September (in possession of the government of the United States) he says that the port of St. Joseph’s lies on the west side of Bell’s River (an arm of St. Mary’s River), at Low’s plantation on the main, situated about midway between the town of Fernandina and St. Mary’s; entrance by St. Mary’s bar; a good depth of water up Bell’s River by the way of the harbor of Fernandina. In his letter of 29th September to A. Argote Villalobos, he pretends that the reason why the government of the United States had, after taking possession of Fernandina, compelled all vessels entering those waters to enter and clear at this customhouse, was because the Spanish government had no port of entry above; and, in the same letter, he alleges as a reason why there was no necessity to move the Apollo from Bell’s River, that the battery of Fernandina and four armed vessels in this harbor (St. Mary’s) might have stopped her departure to sea.
From these statements, made by Mr. Clarke himself, I thought it perfectly correct to state in my letter to Mr. Pasquier that “the spot where the Apollo was seized, and where she had proceeded after having anchored for some days opposite Fernandina, 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 Fernandina and the American town of St. Mary’s.” It was the mouth or entrance of Bell’s River in that of St. Mary’s which I had understood Mr. Clarke, and which I intended to designate, as being midway between the two towns. This might have been expressed with more precision; but I transcribed Mr. Clarke’s expressions, and, however understood, it does not affect the argument.
Considering the fact as established that the pretended port of St. Joseph’s was situated on an arm or inlet of St. Mary’s River, above the town and fort of Fernandina, I attempted, in my letter to Mr. Pasquier, to prove from our possession of the only Spanish fortified place in the harbor, from the motives which had induced us to take possession, and from the order of the Treasury of May, 1818, that the United States had at that time taken actual possession of all the waters of St. Mary’s, and, amongst the rest, of the spot where the Apollo was seized. This was only an inference, and the argumentative part of the letter. But permit me to add an observation relative to the order of the Treasury.
It directs the collector 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 may anchor, and declares that those which may thereafter arrive must be considered as within the jurisdiction of the United States and subjected to the revenue laws in every respect.
When the collector wrote on the 26th August, 1820, on the subject of the Apollo, that vessel was still anchored opposite the town of Fernandina; and I have always been at a loss to understand why he should have hesitated at that time to enforce the order with respect to her, a course which would have saved us the trouble of this discussion. But he added that it had been represented to him as the intention of the captain of the ship to proceed beyond the town of Fernandina, and further within the waters of the province.
The answer from the Treasury of the 9th September, 1820, was, that the Secretary of State had been consulted on the case of the French ship alluded to, and that he was of opinion that it was embraced by the Treasury instruction of May, 1818. The collector, on receipt of this answer, seized the ship in Bell’s River, where she had in the mean while proceeded.
As this answer of 9th September established no new principle, gave no new instructions, and only declared the case of the Apollo to be embraced by the former instructions of May, 1818; as the collector did not consider the removal of the ship to Bell’s River as altering the question, and as his conduct was approved, I naturally concluded that you had considered the original order of May, 1818, as embracing the case and authorizing the seizure; and, having taken myself precisely the same view of the subject, I thought that to enforce it by every argument in my power was not only not inconsistent with the ground you had taken, but, in fact, supporting that on which the seizure had been authorized. It is true that the ground I assumed was different from yours, in that you had not carried, in your correspondence with Mr. de Neuville, the consequences following from the possession of Amelia Island and from the order as far as I have, and in that I omitted resorting to arguments drawn from other sources, which you had already exhausted, and which I had reason to believe would not remove the irritation felt by this government. But I did not think that in so doing I had assumed a ground incompatible with that taken at Washington; and I still hope that you will find that there is no substantial disagreement between them.
I was the more anxious to support the position which I had assumed, because, however strong the reasons alleged in justification of the seizure, still, if it was conceded that it was made on a spot not previously in our possession, it was liable to be considered as a violation of foreign territory and of the rights of the nation whose vessel had been seized. That for acts of that nature reparation has been obtained may be proven by the transactions relative to the Nootka Sound affair in the year 1790. It will be seen by reference to the documents in that case that Great Britain, before she would enter into a discussion of the main question, insisted, and that Spain agreed, that satisfaction should be given for the injury complained of; and that injury was the detention of British vessels in a place over which Great Britain denied that Spain had jurisdiction. I know that distinctions may be drawn; nor do I pretend to say that in that instance England had the right to ask the satisfaction, or that the United States ought to follow the example given by Spain. But the fact might nevertheless be quoted by France as a precedent; and it appeared to me important to avoid, if possible, a discussion on the right of making a seizure on territory not within our previous possession and jurisdiction.
This letter was prepared early in February last, but I did not think it worth while to send it whilst my longer stay here and further connection with the discussion of the subject remained so uncertain.
I have the honor, &c.