Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1826: GALLATIN TO T. W. COBB. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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1826: GALLATIN TO T. W. COBB. - 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 T. W. COBB.
Baltimore, 23d January, 1826.
I had the honor to receive your letter of 19th instant, requesting some explanatory information respecting the western boundary of the State of Georgia, as described in the articles of agreement and cession between that State and the United States.
The line as therein defined was proposed by the commissioners on the part of the State; and the two points on the Chattahoochee and on the Tennessee Rivers were shown by them to the commissioners of the United States on some maps used on the occasion.
Although, from the imperfection of all those existing at the time, it must have been presumed that the two points in question were not laid down on any with perfect precision, yet I understood that they were both well known, and could not be mistaken on the ground. That there was more than one place of the name of Nickajack I had not heard before the receipt of your letter.
The Nickajack intended by the articles of cession was represented to be very near the place where the northern boundary of Georgia (understood at that time to be a few miles south of the 35th degree of latitude) crossed the Tennessee River. It is thus laid down in Lewis’s map of the United States, published in 1795. A copy of this map still in my possession was one of those used by the commissioners. I marked on it at the time the line agreed on, as well as the imperfection of the map permitted, and the blue or green color by which the then Mississippi is thereon distinguished from Georgia according to that line was put on by me. As before stated, Nickajack was considered as being laid down there with tolerable correctness; but I cannot speak so positively as to the other extremity of the line, viz., the bend above Uchee Creek, that creek not being designated on the said map, and the meanders of the Chattahoochee being certainly drawn much at random. I do recollect that there was at least one other map used by the commissioners, on which Uchee Creek was laid down; but I do not remember what it was; and either it did not belong to me, or it has been mislaid or destroyed. It was undoubtedly from that map that I must have laid down, on Lewis’s map, the point of departure on Chattahoochee River above Uchee. Yet my impression, perhaps erroneous after such lapse of years, is that the point, as understood by the commissioners, was south of that laid down by me on my map. I am also under the impression that this point, viz., the first considerable bend of the river above Uchee, was represented to be from five to ten miles above the mouth of that creek. But these impressions are but floating recollections, on which little reliance can be placed.
With these observations I transmit Lewis’s map, above alluded to. That it is the identical map used at the time, and that it is the one on which I laid down the line, I know, not only from its being thus laid down, but from the boundary-lines of the several Yazoo companies being also designated on the map, which was done in the ensuing year for the use of the commissioners of the United States when that subject came before them. The estimate of the contents of the Mississippi Territory, in the report of the commissioners of the United States to Congress on the Yazoo claims, was also calculated by me, at least in part, from the same map.
My answer to your letter was delayed on account of an useless search for other maps. My collection of manuscript ones, which was valuable for the time, and amongst which there were some connected with the subject in question, had been left in the Treasury, and was destroyed in 1814. Lewis’s map, herewith transmitted, being intended for the use of all the parties concerned, I will thank you to acknowledge its receipt. Perhaps it would be best to deposit it in the Department of State.
I have the honor, &c.
Copy of a certificate written by Mr. Gallatin on Lewis’s map of the United States sent to Mr. T. W. Cobb.
Baltimore, 26th January, 1826.
Having been requested, as one of the former commissioners of the United States, to give such information as I might possess respecting the western boundary-line of Georgia as described in the articles of agreement and cession between the United States and the State of Georgia, I do hereby certify that to the best of my recollection this map is one of those which was used by the commissioners; that at the time when the agreement was made, or at farthest within one year thereafter, I laid down the said line from the Tennessee to the Chattahoochee River as it now appears on this map, and put on the blue and red colors by which Georgia is therein distinguished from the then Territory of Mississippi, which line was thus laid down in conformity with the said articles of agreement as correctly as our knowledge of the geography of the country and the imperfection of this map permitted; that Nickajack is laid down on this map nearly where it was understood and represented actually to be by the commissioners of Georgia; but that I do not recollect, Uchee Creek not being designated on this map, from what other map, or on what authority, the point of the aforesaid line (from Nickajack to the Chattahoochee) which strikes the Chattahoochee River was laid down on this map.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
Baltimore, 3d May, 1826.
I have just received your letter of yesterday. A special mission to England suits me far better in every respect than the appointment of resident minister, which to that country is ruinous; and to abandon it on that account at the end of one year, though Mr. King does it, would be unpleasant. There are other reasons for my preference, with which I need not trouble you. It appeared to me when at Washington that, although an extraordinary mission may fail, that course apparently agreeable to the British government was also that which promised the best chance of success. And whoever may be contemplated as Mr. King’s successor, it is hardly possible that one can be found who will not be better disposed to act in concert with me than Mr. K. would have been. I think that you will agree with me that, in that case, I should be first named in the special mission. To Mr. King I must necessarily have yielded, he being an older public servant than myself.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
Baltimore, 7th May, 1826.
In your letter of the 2d you said, “Had you better go out in the character of a special minister, or as the successor of Mr. King? These are questions on which your wishes would have attention and friendly consideration. In either alternative it is not desired that you should protract your abode in England, &c.” I was thence induced to think that the question was still open, and I answered accordingly.
On general grounds I still believe a special mission best calculated to insure success. The negotiation has already failed twice in the hands of two successive ministers resident. One vested with a similar character will have no greater weight than they had, and labor under the increased difficulties arising from that double failure. But the British government, disposed as they are to keep on good terms with the United States, would deliberate seriously before dismissing a special minister without coming to any arrangement. I know that motive to have had its effect on former occasions.
I feel at the same time the change in the aspect of the nomination arising from Mr. King’s resignation, and the difficulty there may be, under existing circumstances, to persuade the Senate to acquiesce in the simultaneous appointment of a successor to him and of a special minister to negotiate; but I thought that, independently of the reason which I have given, the importance of the negotiations, the situation of the slaves commission, and the wish of the British government that two persons should be appointed on our side, afforded sufficient ground for the measure.
Of all this the President must judge, and, having expressed both my opinion on the subject and my personal wishes, it only remains for me to say that if he decides to appoint only a successor to Mr. King, vested with powers to negotiate, I will, though with lessened hopes of success, accept the appointment, with the understanding respecting the time of my return expressed in your letter.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
New York, June 20, 1826.
* * * * * * * * * *
Without taking literally what you said, that I might write my own instructions, I understood that it was intended to leave me sufficient latitude and discretion to enable me to avail myself of circumstances, and to give every chance of success to the mission. And I hope that some attention will have been paid to the memoranda I left with you.
I have the honor, &c.
J. Q. ADAMS TO GALLATIN.
Washington, June 26, 1826.
In the event of Mr. J. A. King’s resignation as secretary of the legation to Great Britain, Mr. Lawrence will, at your recommendation, of course be appointed and nominated to the Senate in his place. This assurance you are authorized to give him, should you make to him the proposal suggested in your letter of the 20th instant. From the family relation existing between Mr. King and Mr. Lawrence, I presume the latter will understand that Mr. King should be left altogether to his unbiased option to form his determination.
I hope the instructions which you have received from the Department of State have been satisfactory to you. The minutes which you left with me have received full attention. I am entirely confident that any discretionary power which you may deem it advisable to exercise for the benefit of our country and the success of the mission will be cordially approved by me, and hope, in case of need, will receive all candid support from the Senate and House of Representatives as well as from the enlightened opinion of the people.
Wishing you a prosperous voyage, a satisfactory service, and all possible contentment, political and personal, I remain, with the highest respect and regards, your friend and servant.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
New York, 29th June, 1826.
I had the honor to receive on the 26th instant, through Mr. Ironsides, your despatches Nos. 1 to 4, dated 19th to 21st of this month, together with the accompanying books and documents.
There has not been time sufficient thoroughly to examine instructions so voluminous and applying to so many important subjects; and I embark to-morrow. This must be my apology if I have not fully understood some parts of the instructions, and for any erroneous views of the subject which may be discovered in the cursory observations I beg leave to submit to your consideration.
I. North-Eastern boundary. I had understood that it was intended to confide to me the negotiation which the government of the United States is desirous to open with that of Great Britain, in order to attempt to settle the differences on that matter, and to avoid the difficulties which lie in the way of a settlement of the question in the mode stipulated by treaty. And my full powers, which must be communicated to the British commissioners at the very outset of my negotiation, authorize me to treat and to sign a convention or treaty on the boundaries generally between the two countries. But, according to the instructions, I am only authorized to try to have the subject referred to a direct negotiation at Washington; and should that attempt fail, and the British commissioners agree to the other proposal, that of a statement of the case agreed to by both parties and to be exhibited to the umpire, the modifications of that statement if it is drawn by the British government, or the preparing of it if drawn by the government of the United States, are also to be referred to Washington without any agency on my part.
This course will render my task very simple and easy, and though somewhat unpleasant to me on account of the apparent discrepancy between the powers and the instructions, I may give an explanation at the time of communicating the powers. But it seems to me that there may arise cases under which a more enlarged authority would be advantageous to the public service.
The great inconvenience of a reference to a third power is acknowledged, and much injury may arise to the United States from the manner in which the subject will be presented to that sovereign if no statement of the case is agreed on. Prussia is amongst the powers I am directed to propose. She lives in daily and deadly fear of Russia, relies for support principally on England, and has nothing to fear or to hope from the United States. Mr. Canning, in one of his notes to Mr. King, says that she is less under the influence of Russia than is generally supposed. There is little doubt that she will be the choice of England. But even if struck from our list, the same considerations, though with less force, will apply more or less to every other European sovereign. But supposing that we have an umpire who, if not altogether impartial, may have sufficient respect for character not to commit a flagrant injustice, he may find sufficient pretences to cover this in the very imperfect and improper manner in which the proceedings of the commissioners have been carried on.
At the first outset the British commissioner refused to concur in surveying and ascertaining the meridian line from the source of the St. Croix River to the point contended on the part of the United States to be the north-west corner of Nova Scotia, and he equally refused to have the residue of the boundary, as claimed by the United States, surveyed under the joint authority of the commissioners. In a suit between individuals where the title to a tract of land or certain boundaries are in question, the first order of the court is to direct a survey to be made which shall clearly exhibit the conflicting claims of the contending parties. Such survey decides no question, and is intended only to enlighten the tribunal; to place all the facts before it. In the case now under consideration, the survey of the territory, showing the lines contended for by each party, was equally necessary, either to enable the commissioners to make a correct decision, or with a view to the contingent reference to a third power. The refusal to concur in so reasonable a demand was so preposterous that a stand should at once have been made on that ground; instead of which, if I understand rightly the proceedings, the commissioner of the United States assented to a survey, under the joint authority of the commission, of the river Restook, and to an ascertainment by barometric observations of the height of certain hills or ranges of hills; thereby seeming to admit that the extraordinary ground assumed by the British government was tenable, and, in fact, more tenable than our own. Finally, the British commissioner made a very long report to both governments, in which all the facts and arguments on that side of the question are embodied and brought together in view. And, on application for the report of the commissioner of the United States, I was informed at the office of the Department of State that there was no other but a reference to the arguments of the agent and to other papers and maps, most of which were made without the joint authority of the commission, and are only to be considered as ex-parte evidence.
These facts are alluded to only for the purpose of calling once more your attention to the very unfavorable position in which the United States may be placed before a third power. If the British government shall reject the two proposals I am authorized to make, that for a direct negotiation at Washington and that for a statement of the case mutually agreed to; and if, according to the instructions, I acquiesce in the immediate reference to a third power, you will have to decide on official reports and complete evidence on one side, and on inofficial statements and ex-parte evidence on ours, it is much to be apprehended that, with the right entirely on our side, a decision may be given against the United States and the undeniable territorial rights of the State of Maine. Every effort at least ought to be used that may avert that result, either by increasing the chance of a direct negotiation, or by raising reasonable objections against a reference unless a joint statement shall be agreed on, or all the informal or ex-parte maps, surveys, &c., on our part shall be admitted by Great Britain as of equal weight with those on their part.
A previous direct negotiation is not provided for by treaty. If, when we ask for it, the British commissioners shall acquiesce in our demand, but insist that the negotiation shall be carried on in London, and not at Washington, I am not authorized to agree to this, and the chance of a negotiation may be lost. I beg leave to observe that, provided we can only obtain that a negotiation shall be opened anywhere, it not only gives a chance of an amicable final settlement of that important point, but it also gives us opportunities of supplying the want of a joint statement and the defects in the proceedings of the commissioners, by inserting in the protocol such paper or papers in support of our claim as will be a substitute for either, and must necessarily go as an official paper before the umpire, if a reference becomes still ultimately necessary.
Finally, the negotiation may be protracted to a certain extent, giving thereby, also, a chance of a better sense of justice and more friendly disposition pervading the British counsels; and it may ultimately be transferred to Washington, if that course should appear to both parties best calculated to promote a friendly arrangement.
With this view of the subject, I respectfully submit to the consideration of the President the following modifications to that part of the instructions:
1. That I may be authorized to open the negotiation on that point in London, in case either this should be insisted on by the British commissioners, or I should think that course most favorable to the interest of the United States. I think that I may be safely trusted in that respect. It has ever been my first wish not that business should be transacted by me, but that it should be done in the manner most advantageous to the public service. Whilst in France I did not hesitate to have the negotiation respecting discriminating duties referred to Washington the moment I was satisfied, and experience proved that my decision was correct, that there was a better prospect in that way of adjusting the differences on that subject. But I do not care how strict and limited the authority that may be given to conclude an arrangement. The important point at present, in my view of the subject, is to open a negotiation rather than to make immediately a final adjustment or compromise. In thus limiting the authority, the difficulty may be obviated which may arise from the necessity of consulting the wishes of the State of Maine before a conclusive arrangement can be made.
2. That, in case of a refusal on the part of Great Britain either to open a negotiation at Washington or London, or to agree to a joint statement of the case, I may not be bound to propose an immediate reference to a third power; but that I may be allowed to raise such previous objections to that reference as I may think tenable and consistent with good faith. A demand that a survey of the country in dispute, exhibiting the lines contended for by each party, should previously be made under the joint authority of both governments, or if, on inspection of the maps, arguments, &c., they shall appear sufficient, that these maps and surveys, though taken ex parte, should be admitted as if made by common consent, are the first that occur to my mind; but other objections as valid may be suggested by a further inspection of the proceedings and documents. And this is one of the reasons why I have already requested that they might all be transcribed and forwarded to me.
II. The boundary west of the Stony Mountains. The parallel of the 49th degree of north latitude will intersect the Caledonia River a short distance above its mouth, leaving the mouth to the United States, and almost the whole course of the river to Great Britain. This renders it improbable that she will accede to our proposed line without modification. A deviation not greater than what may be sufficient to give them the mouth of that river would be of no importance to the United States, and might facilitate an arrangement. The two governments being in some degree committed by the respective rejection of the line proposed by each, the pride of both may be saved by a small alteration of the line; and this consideration is in practice not to be altogether disregarded.
The time proposed for permitting British subjects to continue in settlements heretofore made south of the 49th degree of latitude seems too short. Five years are hardly sufficient to close and withdraw from the business in which the occupants are engaged. If no adjustment of the boundaries can be concluded, and the convention of 1818 is prolonged, ten years’ possession will be allowed, merely in order to prevent collisions. An equal or even longer period may certainly be allowed for the sake of coming to a final arrangement. And I should suggest fifteen instead of five years as the longest time that should be allowed for the final evacuation of the country by British traders, if that period should be insisted on, as a condition of such an arrangement. The British are excluded from any share of the Indian trade within our limits east of the Stony Mountains, not by virtue of any special treaty stipulation, but as a natural consequence of the territorial sovereignty of the United States. To provide specially for that exclusion west of the Stony Mountains does not seem necessary; but, if deemed useful, it seems to me that it should be extended to the whole Indian country, as otherwise an unfavorable inference might be drawn against our right to exclude on the east side of the mountains.
III. St. Lawrence navigation and intercourse with Canada. This subject, though perhaps less important at this time than other points of difference, and although the real interest of Great Britain does not essentially differ from ours on that question, is one of the most difficult and intricate to arrange by treaty.
Generally speaking, two courses present themselves: 1, to insist on the right and wait for a favorable opportunity to assert it, even at the risk of losing for the present the advantages which might be derived from a practical arrangement; 2, to waive for the present without renouncing the right, and to make a commercial arrangement which may remove or lessen the evils now complained of.
To look simply at the letter of the Articles A and B, the first course appears to be that which the President has determined to adopt. The Article B is stated to be a minimum, to secure the least that we can take. And it provides that the navigation of the St. Lawrence within the British dominions shall ever remain free and open to the citizens of the United States, and that, to render effectual that right, his Britannic Majesty will permit them for five years to have places of deposit at Quebec and Montreal, and afterwards either to continue that permission, or to assign them an equivalent establishment on the banks of the St. Lawrence. Nothing more can be asked as a matter of right. It is a complete admission, though not recognition, of the right claimed by the United States, and with all the characteristics belonging to a matter of right, viz., perpetuity and want of reciprocity. In this last respect, the real reciprocity consists only in the right obtained by the British to navigate that part of the channel of the St. Lawrence which is exclusively within the United States; but they are admitted in none of the navigable lakes connected with the St. Lawrence which are exclusively within the United States, whilst the citizens of the United States are to enjoy the navigation of the St. Lawrence within the British dominions. This want of reciprocity would hardly be proposed in a commercial arrangement founded solely on mutual convenience; its propriety rests on the inherent right of the citizens of the United States to navigate the river St. Lawrence through its whole extent.
I am sure that, if this is the ground really intended to be adhered to, I can add nothing to the forcible argument urged by Mr. Rush, and I certainly can entertain no hope of succeeding better than he did. Neither this nor any of the preceding observations is made for the purpose of raising any objection whatever against that course, if it has been decided on. I only fear that I may mistake the object in view. Perhaps it is not intended that I should strictly adhere to the Article or Articles A and B. There are several passages in the instructions whence it might be inferred that the intention was to waive the right for the present without renouncing it, and merely to make a temporary practical arrangement. Thus it is there said that it is more agreeable to turn from a protracted discussion which, although we are entirely confident of having the right on our side, may terminate by leaving each party in possession of the same opinion which he entertained at its commencement, to the consideration of some practical arrangement which, if possible, shall reconcile the views of both, and that the mutual interests of the two countries, independently of any considerations of right in the navigation of the St. Lawrence, should produce an arrangement satisfactory to both parties. And again, though literally limited to the Articles A and B, it is anticipated that such an arrangement may be made when, without any authority to discuss them, I am instructed to take any counter-proposals which the British government may offer for reference to my own. For what purpose is that reference if in fact the Article B secures the least that the United States can take?
But if the reference alluded to is only intended as an act of courtesy towards the British government, if it has been determined not to treat on the subject of the navigation of the St. Lawrence, properly so called, unless the substance of the Article B and which is common to the Article A can be obtained, I do not understand what objection there can be to secure by a treaty stipulation, if practicable, that exemption from duties of our produce or of the principal articles of it when imported into Canada, which it seems it would be satisfactory to obtain, though with no better guarantee than some assurances of the British government. This exemption, or at least a considerable reduction of the rate of such duties, would be a mere commercial regulation, unconnected with and not at all affecting the question respecting the right of navigating the St. Lawrence, and would, it seems, afford at this time more relief than any other measure. It is in fact nothing more than confining the treaty stipulation to the subject-matter of that paragraph of the Article A which is not common to the Article B. I have been led to take this view of the subject from the perusal of the report of the committee of the Legislature of New York, dated March 28, 1825. Though they may not be authority on questions of international law, they must certainly be allowed to understand the practical question, the interest of their constituents, the real grievance of which they complain, the remedy which will remove it.
In that report the committee say expressly that “the right to navigate the St. Lawrence can be of very little use to us unless we are allowed to trade at Montreal, and that our trade there is placed on a liberal footing;” and again, alluding to the right of deposit, that “it will afford a very uncertain and feeble protection to our Northern citizens.” The reasons for both opinions are given at large in the report, and they appear to be correct, so far at least as relates to the lumber trade, which, since the great canal is navigable, constitutes almost the sole object, and for a long time will continue to be the principal object, of exportation from the United States to Canada. To be liable to no duty or to an inconsiderable duty there, is the only efficient remedy to the evil, unless resort be had to retaliation.
It would follow that if, contrary to expectation but in conformity with the instructions, the Article B was to become part of a treaty, it would for the present afford no relief to the inhabitants of the St. Lawrence country. And we would, moreover, lose thereby what is considered by them as the only mode of obtaining redress, since the British obtaining by that article the right of navigating that channel of the river St. Lawrence which is exclusively within the dominions of the United States, their exclusion therefrom could no longer be used as retaliation for the purpose of compelling them to repeal the extraordinary duties complained of. This, it will be perceived, is another difficulty in the way of an amicable arrangement on that subject. Had I any opinion to give upon it, it would be this:
First, to determine whether it is best to adhere to the right of navigating the river St. Lawrence without compromise, or to waive the right for the present, but without renouncing it.
In the first case, to try to obtain by treaty an exemption or considerable reduction of duty on the principal articles of our produce exported into Canada, stipulating a reciprocal exemption or reduction on similar Canadian produce, including fur, imported into the United States, and to be silent on the subject of the navigation of the St. Lawrence, unless the British assent to give up the point in the manner provided by the Article A.
In the second case, to try to make a temporary arrangement, both for the navigation and for the importation of our produce, similar in substance but not in form to the Article A. But to give this any chance of success there must be reciprocity, and I apprehend that the British would ask the right to navigate Lakes Champlain and Michigan, to which there may not be any objection, provided there is an express provision against this giving them the right of participating in the trade with our Indians.
In no case whatever to propose the Article B.
IV. Colonial trade. Not having the late Acts of Parliament, and on account of the many details belonging to the subject, I cannot say that I understand yet fully the scope of the instructions. One branch only has struck me, because it was new to me. It relates to the claim of carrying colonial produce in American vessels to any foreign other than British ports. In case the British should refuse this privilege, or decline the offer of a general abolition of discriminating duties everywhere and without regard to the nature or origin of the merchandise, I am instructed to have a clause inserted reserving the right to each party to restrict the trade between the United States and the British colonies to the direct intercourse between them. I wish to understand precisely what is meant by these last words. Is it intended to prevent British vessels coming to the United States from the British colonies from going from the United States to any other port, British or foreign, than the British colonies? or to prevent any British vessel, unless she has come from the British colonies, from sailing from the United States for the said colonies? or is any other restriction contemplated? A clause in general words may be proposed; but explanations respecting its operation will be asked.
V. Articles proposed to Mr. Rush by the British commissioners at their twenty-second conference. I presume that, these articles being generally for the convenience of Great Britain, though authorized to accede to several of them, this is discretionary, and not to be done unless a satisfactory result has been obtained on other points.
But permit me to add some observations on some of those articles. 1. Mutual delivery of criminals. This subject of extradition has ever been in practice one of the most delicate and difficult of the law of nations. Even when free of many abuses, and confined to the offences of murder and forgery, the surrender of a citizen will ever be odious, and even that of an alien unpopular. National pride may feel interested in the question; but the difference between our penal codes and that of Great Britain, and those perhaps existing in the administration of justice in the two countries, form a solid objection. Questions on the evidence in support of the demand for surrender perpetually arise in the countries where the principle has been adopted. The article of the treaty of 1794 with Great Britain, which embraced a similar provision, was originally opposed as interfering with State rights, and the only attempt within my knowledge to carry it into effect was not fortunate. The case of Jonathan Robbins gave rise to two important questions: Was the act committed murder, for which the man should be surrendered? or piracy, according to the law of nations, for which he was punishable and ought to be tried in the United States? Ought his claim to be a citizen of the United States to have been examined before he was surrendered? The excitement caused by the surrender of this man, its effect on popular opinion, are well known. Is it wise, is it sound policy, on a question of doubtful utility and minor importance, to awaken ancient recollections and feelings,—perhaps to endanger a whole convention in other respects acceptable?
2. Deserters. The surrender of those belonging to the navy has, by every successive Administration, been considered as intimately connected with the question of impressment, and as a concession to Great Britain, not to be made unless she expressly renounced her pretensions to impress on board the vessels of the United States.
3. Protection to merchants in case of war. This article is unexceptionable, but does not go far enough. The protection should be extended to all vessels belonging to either party and being in the ports of the other party at the time of the war being declared or known. The United States acted on that principle at the commencement of the last war, whilst Great Britain seized and condemned the American vessels in her ports. Indemnity was afterwards refused, and the distinction maintained between property on shore or floating. To abolish this should be insisted on on our part.
I have not time to transcribe or to correct; and this letter bears evident marks of the haste with which it has been written. Whilst I request that the observations it contains may be respectfully submitted to the President, I need hardly add that, in the mean while, the instructions shall be faithfully executed to the best of my abilities. But it is a matter of considerable regret that they had not sooner been made known to me.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
New York, 30th June, 1826.
I have this moment received your friendly letter of the 26th instant. I regret that I cannot say that my instructions are satisfactory. They are on almost every subject of the most peremptory nature, leaving no discretion on unimportant points, and making of me a mere machine. They presuppose that every subject has a priori been so completely analyzed that it is not susceptible of any other modification than those suggested in the instructions; that nothing must be left to unforeseen circumstances; that nothing will arise from the proposals that may be made by the other party; that no new mode of adjusting a difficult point can occur to the agent; that nothing must be left to his discretion. I have, in a letter dated yesterday, stated some of the inconveniences which it appeared to me were likely to arise from a strict adherence to the instructions. This was necessarily done in great haste. On some points I may be mistaken; on others I feel great confidence that I am right. I am sure that an enlargement of the discretionary power would be of public and great utility. By obeying the instructions as they are to the best of my ability, I shall have performed my duty and be discharged of any responsibility. But I seriously fear that this course, notwithstanding my best and most faithful endeavors, will be injurious in some important points, and produce a failure in others. I am far from saying that even with an extension of power I will succeed; but I am sure it will make the chance of success much greater.
You have been pleased to express your confidence that any discretionary power which I may deem advisable to exercise for the benefit of the country and the success of the mission would meet with your approbation. But how can I do this safely or even lawfully under the present instructions? It is not difficult to remove this difficulty. Let it only be officially announced to me, in answer to my letter of yesterday, that the instructions are intended to guide but not absolutely to bind me; that they express the views of the subject entertained by the Executive, but that I may nevertheless, either generally or as to the points adverted to in my letter, or as to some of them, or under other limitations that may be deemed proper, exercise a reasonable discretion. I am not afraid of incurring responsibility where discretion is allowed, but I cannot do it in the face of strict and positive injunctions.
Whatever may be decided in that respect, you may rely on my zeal and the sincerity of my endeavors in bringing the subjects of difference with Great Britain to a favorable issue.
Accept, I pray, my best wishes for the success of your Administration and for your personal welfare, as well as the assurance of the high respect and sincere regard with which I have the honor to remain, dear sir, your friend and obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 19th August, 1826.
I arrived here on the 7th instant, and addressed on the ensuing day a note to Mr. Canning, of which and of his answer copies are enclosed.
Mr. Huskisson and Mr. Addington are out of town; and it is not probable that a negotiation with those gentlemen can be opened before the middle of next month.
Of the important events which have taken place in Europe since my departure from the United States I have as yet no other information than what is derived from newspapers.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 28th August, 1826.
The unexpected order in council for interdicting the intercourse in American vessels between the United States and the British colonies in South America and the West Indies placed me on my arrival in a more difficult situation than had been anticipated.
It was evident that that act would produce a similar one on the part of the United States, to interdict the same intercourse in British vessels; it was probable that the indirect intercourse through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would not be permitted by my government; but I could not judge whether any further steps might be deemed necessary.
Although without instructions on that unforeseen contingency, and although the order in council did not appear to infringe any positive right of the United States, I thought I ought not to be silent on the occasion, since this would be construed as acquiescing in the unsatisfactory explanations given by Mr. Canning.
I have, accordingly, addressed to him a note, of which a copy is enclosed.1 In this I have simply exposed the nature and true import of the order in council, avoiding to say anything that might impede a negotiation, and leaving the course open for any further measures which the President may think proper to adopt. The opportunity was at the same time taken to state the reasons for the delay in renewing the negotiations, and why an Act had not been passed for placing the navigation and commerce of the British possessions abroad upon the footing of the most favored nation. This was deemed the more important, as I cannot assign any other rational motive for the suspension of the intercourse but a desire to regulate it altogether by Acts of Parliament, without leaving us any other option than that of either accepting such Acts in toto and without any modifications, or of having no intercourse whatever with the British colonies. This conjecture is strengthened by the tenor of the third article of the British counter-project offered to Mr. Rush in the year 1824.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, September 13, 1826.
After we had, in the conference of the 11th instant with Mr. Canning, disposed for the present of the subject of the proceedings of the commission appointed under the St. Petersburg convention, Mr. Canning informed me that he had prepared an answer to my note of the 26th of August, relative to the order in council of the 27th of July, and that I would receive it either that evening or the ensuing day. He then said that the government of the United States seemed to have considered the intercourse with the British colonies as being of the same nature with that with Great Britain itself, and which ought, therefore, to be adjusted by mutual arrangement. Great Britain could not consider it in that view. An intercourse with her colonies was only permissive, and accordingly regulated by her own laws. I asked whether this was only the declaration of an abstract right, or whether I was to understand that it was the intention of Great Britain to act accordingly, and to decline entering into negotiations with the United States on that subject; to which the answer was immediately given that such was the intention of his Majesty’s government.
I replied that, this declaration being important and altogether unexpected, I must wait till I had received Mr. Canning’s intended note before I could express an opinion upon it. I would only observe at present that every species of foreign trade was permissive. There was no nation that had not and did not exercise the right of regulating the intercourse of foreigners with its own territories, wherever situated. And yet almost every nation had found it convenient, if not necessary, to adjust that intercourse by conventions or treaties. So long as the colonial system was preserved entire, every species of intercourse with foreign nations was altogether prohibited. Whenever it suited the policy of a nation having colonies to open that intercourse, the same question would recur as with respect to home possessions, viz.: Was it more convenient to regulate it by mutual arrangements than by the conflicting laws of each party? In the present case it had always been thought that an intercourse between the United States and the British West India colonies was beneficial, and therefore a proper subject for negotiation. And accordingly there had never been a negotiation of a commercial nature between the two countries in the course of which the subject of that intercourse had not been taken up. The determination now communicated to me was, therefore, entirely unexpected, and avowed a change of policy.
Mr. Huskisson said in reply that, generally speaking, it had been the constant usage of nations to make commercial treaties respecting the intercourse with territories which were not colonies, but that, on the contrary, it had never been customary to make such treaties respecting colonial intercourse. This had always been considered as a subject exclusively belonging to the mother-country. Great Britain never had—he did not know of any nation that ever had—made a treaty on that subject. It was true that, so long as a partial intercourse was admitted by England between her colonies and the United States only, it had been attempted, but without success, to regulate it by a conventional arrangement. But a material change had taken place in her policy; and I understood Mr. Huskisson to say that he had, during the negotiation of 1824, given notice to Mr. Rush that such a change was intended. The British colonies were now opened on certain conditions to all nations, and Great Britain could not enter into arrangements on that subject with the United States without exposing herself to much inconvenience with respect to other nations.
Mr. Canning, in allusion to my having stated in my note to him that the delay in renewing the negotiations must in a great degree be ascribed to Mr. King’s state of health, added that, according to information received from Mr. Vaughan, the Secretary of State at Washington had told him that he could not have instructions prepared for that subject before the month of last May. To this I replied that I had spoken in general terms, and that the cause I had assigned was, as I understood, that of the delay in preparing the instructions. I was not, however, at all prepared to discuss the subject; and it was only for the sake of information that I would ask whether it was also intended to decline a negotiation as respected the intercourse by inland navigation with Canada. To this Mr. Huskisson answered that, the British North American colonies being adjacent to the United States, there was no objection to treat of the intercourse by land or inland navigation on the ground of mutual convenience, but not on that of a right on the part of the United States, a subject on which the British government had given their answer in 1824.
The objects of negotiation were then mentioned by Messrs. Canning and Huskisson to be the renewal of the convention of 1818, the boundary west of the Stony Mountains, and the North-East boundary. I said that I reserved the question (on which I had not yet formed an opinion) whether, on account of the refusal to treat of the colonial intercourse, I ought to refer to my government the propriety of renewing the convention of 1818. No observation was made on the Western boundary. Concerning the North-East boundary, Mr. Huskisson said that, for the purpose of reference to a third power, it seemed necessary that we should agree to some kind of statement whereby some distinct and intelligible questions should be submitted to the umpire for the decision.
On my asking at what time the British commissioners would be ready to open the negotiation, Mr. Huskisson expressed his utter reluctance to do it now, it being the only time allowed him and his colleagues for relaxation, and mentioned November as sufficiently early for every purpose. He added that the meeting of Parliament would be no impediment to our transacting business. I said that I was of course ready at any time, and that the earliest day would suit me best; and I alluded to the time when Congress must necessarily adjourn. But I abstained from pressing further that point, as it appeared certain that he would have refused altogether an earlier meeting than he proposed; and, as the colonial intercourse was out of the question, there was no advantage, with the apparent temper, in the immediate discussion of any subject.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
London, 13th September, 1826.
I wrote this day to the Secretary of State announcing that this government is disposed to offer £250,000 in lieu of the indemnity which might be obtained under the slave convention. The fact is, that the inofficial proposal was received last afternoon, but marked as a private and confidential communication, not to be either made public or used hereafter in argument in case it was rejected. There was annexed an estimate in substance as follows:
The instalments to be £100,000 on May 1, 1827; £100,000 on 1st November, 1827; £50,000 on 1st May, 1828.
Mr. Addington, who left the proposal whilst I was out, sent me a note stating he was not charged with any farther communication on the subject, and that Mr. Canning had informed him that the proposition in question was the only one he could have occasion to submit to my consideration. This is all I have to say in addition to the contents of my letter to Mr. Clay, to which I beg leave to refer. I am in great haste in order to be in time for this week’s Liverpool packet. With great respect, &c.
P.S.—I believe that the principal difference between the above estimate of principal, £180,000, and that of Mr. Cheves, £200,000, arises from the British government placing the Louisiana slaves, valued at about £32,000, amongst the doubtful claims, and of which (a reference having been asked on that point) we would have the chance of only one-half. I believe the estimate of Mr. Jackson of indisputable claims to be £140,000.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 14th September, 1826.
I received last night at ten o’clock Mr. Canning’s answer (dated 11th instant) to my note of the 26th of August. It is much too long to be transcribed in time for this packet. In hopes that this letter may yet reach Liverpool in time, I enclose a transcript of the last paragraphs, which is all that I have time to do.
The enactment alluded to in the first line of the enclosed transcript is that clause of the Act of Congress of 1823 which I had overlooked in my note of the 26th of August to Mr. Canning, and which provides in substance that no British ship entering an American port from the United Kingdom or from any other British possession, except directly from the West India colonies, shall be allowed to clear out from any port of the United States for any of those colonies. It is made a prominent reason for the course now adopted by this government, that this clause was suffered to remain in force after the restrictions of the Act of Parliament of 1822, on which it was professedly founded, had been done away by the Act of Parliament of 1825, and I understand that enactment to be the pretension, recorded in the Act of Congress aforesaid, which, so long as it remains the law of the United States, will prevent the British government from consenting to any renewal of the negotiation upon the colonial intercourse.
In your instructions to me you observe, in relation to the Act of Parliament of 1825, that according to its provisions “the foreign vessel is restricted to a direct intercourse between the country to which it belongs and the British colony, adhering in this respect to the old principle of her Navigation Law.”
I am thence led to infer that it was not understood that the restriction was done away by the Act of Parliament, and that to that circumstance must be ascribed the continuance in force of the corresponding restriction of the Act of Congress of 1823.
Mr. Canning’s note is not written in the most assuaging manner, and there are at least some observations which might have been omitted. I will take my own time to answer it.
I have not time to add anything more, and have the honor to be, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 20th September, 1826.
I have now the honor to enclose Mr. Canning’s note of the 11th instant, on which I will for the present abstain from making any comments. But there is a subject on which I request to be instructed as soon as possible.
My instructions were prepared without any expectation of the measures since adopted by this government on the subject of the colonial trade. Is it still intended that the convention of 1815, renewed in 1818, should be now again renewed?
Experience has indeed shown that, as far as relates to navigation, the result of that convention is highly favorable to the United States. Yet I cannot judge of the effect which the apparent determination of this government to exclude them altogether from the colonial trade, open to all other foreign nations, may or ought to have on the general policy of America towards Great Britain.
I have also some reason to believe that some modifications will be proposed to the convention. From Mr. Huskisson’s declaration in Parliament, and from some expressions of Mr. Addington in a conversation with him, it seems probable that the principal of those modifications will be the proposal to allow the importation from the United States and in American vessels of goods the produce of any part of the world, on condition of the like privilege being granted to British vessels in the ports of the United States, and in both cases without any discriminating duties.
This would accord with the spirit of my instructions, and is consistent with the policy of the United States. The only question is whether, supposing the convention to be renewed, a proposal which will apply to the intercourse between the United States and only the European dominions of Great Britain should be accepted. I would rather incline to the affirmative, if the convention is to be renewed at all.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 22d September, 1826.
I have the honor to enclose the copy of my answer to Mr. Canning’s note of the 11th instant, relating to the order in council of 27th of July last.
It would have been easy to make it much longer; but it appeared to be unnecessary to repeat in detail arguments which have been so often brought forward; and the only difficulty consisted in selecting and condensing such as could not in a reply be omitted. The ground is left open for my government to give to the world a more comprehensive view of the whole subject, if they shall think it worth their while.
On three points we were perhaps vulnerable: 1, the delay in renewing the negotiation; 2, the omission of having revoked the restriction on the indirect intercourse when that of Great Britain had ceased; 3, too long an adherence to the opposition to her right of laying protecting duties. This might have been given up as soon as the Act of 1825 had passed. These are the causes assigned for the late measures adopted towards the United States on that subject; and they have undoubtedly had a decisive effect as far as relates to the order in council, assisted as they were by the belief that our object was to compel this country to regulate the trade upon our own terms.
But even this will not account for the refusal to negotiate, and the apparent determination to exclude us altogether hereafter from a participation in the trade of the colonies. There is certainly an alteration in the disposition of this government towards the United States since the year 1818, when I was last here. Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Robinson had it more at heart to cherish friendly relations than Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson. The difference may, however, be in the times rather than in the men. Treated in general with considerable arrogance till the last war, with great attention if not respect during the years that followed it, the United States are now an object of jealousy; and a policy founded on that feeling has been avowed. I beg leave to refer on that point to the enclosed speeches of Mr. Huskisson, particularly to those of 21st March, 1825, and 12th May, 1826, in which you will also find in substance much of what is contained in Mr. Canning’s note of the 11th.
I had at first been tempted to allude to this in my answer, the latter part of which on reflection I suppressed, as upon the whole it did not appear necessary to tell them that we understood their policy, since they cannot doubt it; or what would be the obvious consequence of its being pursued, as this is a subject better to be treated verbally. A copy of the suppressed part is enclosed, on account of its references to Mr. Huskisson’s expressions.
As it appears to me to be the true interest of both countries to come to some arrangement on that subject, I believe that this will ultimately take place. Some time must be allowed to assuage the feelings which have been generated on both sides. The British West India colonies cannot be supplied on reasonable terms from Europe; and their North American colonies have not a sufficient surplus of their own for this purpose. That surplus imported here from Canada amounts to about 100,000 quarters of wheat, equivalent to 160,000 barrels of flour. Prior to the introduction of wheat from Canada into England on a moderate duty (5 shillings per quarter) the importation did not exceed 20,000 quarters, and it was allowed that we supplied the British West Indies with two-thirds—I think myself with seven-eighths—of their consumption in flour. I told Mr. Canning that their attempt was nothing more than an experiment to give to their colonies the benefit of the corn laws, which it is understood that the Ministry wishes to have repealed here. They have but a single weapon to enable them to hold out,—the extension of the warehouse system in Canada,—and, if this should prove insufficient, a repeal of the duties now laid there on produce imported by inland navigation will give them the command of the whole that is raised for exportation in that portion of the United States bordering on the Lakes and on the St. Lawrence. It cannot be concealed that both that section and Upper Canada are susceptible of a rapid and great increase in population and natural product. We also know that under the operation of the Acts of Parliament and of Congress now in force our commerce with the British West Indies is much less than formerly. Our exports to those colonies, on the average of the years 1802, 1803, 1804, amounted annually in value to six millions of dollars, and Demerara and other conquered Dutch colonies are not included. One-half of this amount consisted of flour, corn, meal, rice, and other vegetable provisions. The total amount of these last-mentioned articles exported to those colonies, including Demerara, and to the British North American provinces, did not in the year 1825 exceed 1,100,000 dollars, a difference which cannot be accounted for by the reduction of prices alone. In the former years our exportation of articles now prohibited, consisting chiefly of salted fish, pork, and beef, amounted annually to 1,600,000 dollars. It is true that, although the trade is now much less important than formerly, the want of a market for our agricultural produce in the grain-growing States is now much more severely felt than then.
Viewing the question only in a commercial light, I should think it would be best not to betray too much anxiety, and to be satisfied with the prohibition of the intercourse as already provided for by law.
It is possible that no answer will be given to my note, improbable that any can be prepared before Mr. Canning’s return. It cannot be expected that I will have anything material to communicate before the commencement of November.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
London, 18th October, 1826.
I had intended next spring, before my return to America, to have made an excursion to Paris once more to see some of my friends. Mr. Canning’s absence and the dispersion of the other members of the Cabinet having left me literally without anything to do here, I embraced what was the most favorable opportunity of making that journey, from which I have just returned. My letter of yesterday to the Secretary of State contains the substance of the information I was able to collect there; and I will now add some particulars which, as they involve the names of individuals, I did not wish to remain of record in the Department of State.
In the course of a long conversation with Pozzo di Borgo, the state of our relations with Great Britain was alluded to. I told him that the Emperor’s decision in the case of slaves carried away and the convention relative thereto had not been carried into effect by Great Britain in conformity with what we considered their real intention and meaning; that the British government had offered to compromise the matter by payment of a sum of money which fell short of our expectations; but that we were nevertheless inclined to accept it, principally on account of the reluctance we felt to trouble the Emperor by an appeal asking from him further explanations of his decision. Pozzo immediately expressed his wish that we might compromise or otherwise adjust the matter without making such an appeal, which, particularly at this time, would be, as he thought, extremely inconvenient to the Emperor; and speaking of the Maine boundary question, with which and its possible consequences he appeared well acquainted, he appeared also desirous, though he did not express himself as positively as on that of slaves, that Russia should not be selected as the umpire. I only observed that if there was any inconvenience in being obliged to make decisions which might not please both parties, that inconvenience was less to Russia than to any other power, and that a compensation for it was found in the additional degree of consideration accruing to the monarch in whom such confidence was placed. All this, however, corroborates what I have stated in my official letter respecting an approximation between Russia and Great Britain, and the disposition of the Emperor to interfere less than his predecessor in affairs in which he has no immediate interest.
The most remarkable change discoverable in France is the extinction of Bonapartism, both as relates to dynasty and to the wish of a military government. This, I am happy to say, appears to have had a favorable effect on our friend La Fayette, who was very ungovernable in all that related to petty plots during my residence at Paris as minister, and to whom I had again spoken on the same subject in the most forcible manner whilst he was in America. His opinions and feelings are not changed; but he appears to be thoroughly satisfied of the hopelessness of any attempt to produce a change at present; and he confines his hopes to a vague expectation that, after the death of the present King and of the Dauphin, the Duke of Orleans will dispute the legitimacy of the Duke of Bordeaux and become a constitutional king. This is such doubtful and distant contingency as is not likely to involve La Fayette in any difficulties.
Mr. de Villèle complained to me of those expressions in the President’s message which declared Hayti to have placed herself in a state of vassalage to France, as calculated to increase the dissatisfaction amongst the people of the island at the late arrangement. He said that he was aware of the objections of a very different nature which we had to a recognition of the independence of Hayti, but did not see the necessity of alleging the reason alluded to. As I did not wish and did not think it at all proper to enter into any discussion of the subject, I answered, as if in jest, “qu’un tribut, imposé à une colonie comme le prix de son indépendance, était contraire aux grands principes.” I forgot to mention the circumstance to Mr. Brown, and do not know whether the thing had already been complained of to him. If so, its being repeated to me—and they were almost the first words Mr. de Villèle addressed to me—shows that it must have made a deep impression on the French government.
This reminds me that I received here a communication from a respectable quarter stating that, a few days before the publication of the order in council of July last, one of the King’s Ministers had complained to a confidential friend of the general tone of the American (United States) diplomacy towards England, still more so as respected manner than matter, and added that it was time to show that this was felt and resented. As to manner, the reproach cannot certainly attach either to Mr. Rush’s or Mr. King’s correspondence; and I know, from a conversation with Mr. Addington, that in that respect Mr. Clay’s has been quite acceptable. On looking at your own communications, I am satisfied that those to the British Ministers can have given no offence whatever, and that what they allude to and which has offended them is your instructions to Mr. Rush, printed by order of the Senate, and which have been transmitted both to Mr. Canning and to Mr. Huskisson; a circumstance, by the by, not very favorable to negotiations still pending. That they have no right to complain of what you wrote to our own minister is obvious; still, I think the fact to be so.
I forgot to mention in my letter of yesterday to the Secretary of State that there is some alarm amongst the legitimates about a plan of Metternich to change the line of succession in Austria, on a plea of the presumed incapacity of the heir presumptive; and that the King of the Netherlands has at last, by his unabated and exclusive attention to business and by his perfect probity and sincerity, so far conquered the prejudices of the Belgians as to have become highly respected and almost popular amongst them.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 21st October, 1826.
Mr. Canning having, in his note of the 11th ult., expressly stated that the restrictions on the indirect or circuitous intercourse in American vessels between the United States and the British West Indies had, from January last, been removed by Great Britain, I could not but take it for granted that he understood the Acts of Parliament better than we did; besides which, there was in the 4th Section of the Act of the 5th July, 1825, a reference to a law of navigation permitting foreign ships to export goods from British possessions abroad to any foreign country whatever; and Mr. Canning had verbally informed me that he had submitted his note to the law officers of the Crown.
In my answer of the 22d ult. I therefore conceded that I had, and admitted that my government might have, overlooked the provisions of the Acts of Parliament to that effect.
I have not yet, nevertheless, been able to discover the Act by which the restrictions alluded to, and which were imposed by that of the 24th June, 1822, have been removed. It is not of 5th July, 1825, which contains no enacting clause to that effect, but only the general reference above mentioned; nor is it that of 27th June, 1825, the 6th Section of which in its utmost latitude does not embrace vessels of the United States.
I do not mean to say that the provision respecting the said restrictions may not be found in some Act which has hitherto escaped my research. But, as I cannot obtain satisfactory information till after Mr. Canning’s return; as there is a bare possibility, however improbable in itself, that he may have committed a mistake; and as letters by this packet may be the last that will reach you before the meeting of Congress, I thought it best to let you know the fact that I had not yet discovered the Act in question, in order that, in any communication which may be made by the President on the subject, such guarded language may be used as will avoid commitment either way. I should think that, unless you have been more successful in your search than I have been, you may with truth say that the existence of an Act of Parliament repealing the restrictions in question is no otherwise known to the government of the United States than by Mr. Canning’s declaration in his note aforesaid.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.1
London, 27th October, 1826.
. . . Although there is no prospect that any arrangement will shortly take place on that subject, yet it is desirable to be prepared for any contingency. And I wish that the President would take into consideration whether, supposing an arrangement either by convention or by mutual modification on both sides of existing laws or regulations to be practicable, it would be proper, so far as relates to navigation, to agree to the terms contained in the Acts of Parliament.
The most important of the restrictions on the indirect or circuitous trade—that which limited the exportations from the British West Indies in American vessels to the United States—has been repealed, and there remain but two. Such exportations cannot be made in American vessels to Great Britain or her dependencies; a point on which we cannot insist, and which is already given up by the instructions; and the importations into those colonies of American produce must, if made in American vessels, be direct from the United States. Is it necessary on that account to insist on the right of preventing British vessels, other than those coming direct from the colonies, from clearing from the United States for those colonies? Or, in other words (for it is clear, with such a resolution, no arrangement is practicable), is it worth while on that account to continue to cut off altogether the intercourse between the United States and the British colonies? On that question I beg leave to submit two observations: 1st. The right of importing produce of the United States into the British West Indies from other places than the United States is in itself of no great value. It might occasionally be convenient, when the market of Cuba or of other ports in the Gulf of Mexico was glutted with American produce, to have a right to take it in American vessels to the British West India ports; but it is but rarely that these will not, from the same causes, be also glutted at the same time, and that the expense of a double voyage and freight could be incurred. 2dly. Whilst contending for a nominal reciprocity, we must acknowledge that the other party must consider how far this reciprocity will be real. It is now ascertained that four-fifths of the tonnage employed in our intercourse with Great Britain itself are American, and only one-fifth British. Considering the species of population, the climate and commercial capital of the West Indies, and the distance of Great Britain, it is utterly impossible that the direct intercourse between the United States and the British West Indies should not, with equal duties and charges on the navigation, be carried on in a still greater proportion in vessels of the United States. The only compensation in that respect to Great Britain is to be found in the circuitous voyages which British vessels may make from that country through the United States to her West India colonies. And I feel quite confident—I think every man acquainted with the subject will be of the same opinion—that even granting them that privilege will leave more than three-fourths of the intercourse to our vessels.
I apprehend more danger from another source. Unless the rate of duties on our produce when imported direct from the United States into the West Indies, as compared with that laid on it when imported from the British North American colonies, can be limited by convention, it appears to me doubtful whether an understanding without convention would not be preferable. At present our flour imported direct from the United States into the British West Indies pays five shillings per barrel. If imported into Halifax, St. John’s, or Bermuda, and there warehoused, it pays no duty; and if re-exported thence to the British West Indies, which under existing laws can be done only in British vessels, it pays there only one shilling per barrel. This difference of four shillings may not be sufficient to cover the expense and charges of a double voyage, unloading, warehousing, and reloading. But if the rate of duties can be increased at will by Great Britain, she may easily so lay them as that our flour may be delivered on cheaper terms in the West Indies through that circuitous course than direct from the United States, which would at once give her the best part of the navigation. If, therefore, neither the rate of duties can be limited by convention, nor a condition inserted that no greater duties shall be raised on produce of the United States when imported direct from the United States than when imported from other countries, including Great Britain and her colonies, I would strongly incline to the opinion that it would be best, whenever an arrangement becomes practicable, that it should [rest] on a mutual understanding and on the respective laws of the two countries, rather than it should become altogether binding on the United States, and deprive them of the right of countervailing such disproportionate duties as I have alluded to.
It will not escape you that the intercourse by sea between the United States and the British West Indies and North American colonies has always been considered as necessarily connected together by the British government, and that this connection has been kept up in the Acts of Parliament, in the articles proposed to Mr. Rush, and indeed in all former proposals on their part. The condition to which I allude as necessary on our part in case of a convention differs essentially from that which has been absolutely rejected by Great Britain, and which I am instructed to give up. It applies not to the produce of British colonies similar to our own, but to our own when imported into the West Indies from the British colonies. But what renders the subject in that respect still more complex and difficult to arrange by treaty is, that it would be necessary to make a distinct provision as relates to American produce imported into Canada by inland navigation. This, indeed, will probably be, if it is not already, sufficiently protected without any interference on our part. But what relates to that subject, and to the St. Lawrence generally, will be the subject of a distinct despatch.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 5th November, 1826.
Mr. Canning’s attention, in our interview of the 4th instant, was principally turned to my official note to him of the 22d September last,1 on the subject of the colonial intercourse. He said he had hesitated and had not yet made up his mind whether to answer it or to instruct Mr. Vaughan to give you some explanations on the subject generally. He asked me whether I thought it probable that that correspondence would be published; and, on my answering that it was possible, he seemed inclined himself to make an answer to the note.
He alluded particularly to the last paragraph of my note, and when speaking of instructions to Mr. Vaughan, I understood that his object was to remove any impression that the proceedings of this government arose from any hostile feeling towards the United States. I did not deny that the paragraph in question was calculated to convey that opinion; and I told Mr. Canning that in the original draft of my note I had connected with that sentence an allusion to Mr. Huskisson’s declarations in his Parliamentary speeches, that it was the policy of England to favor the navigation of other less dangerous nations rather than that of the United States, formidable rivals in time of peace, &c., and that I had struck it out from a belief that, as part at least of an official note, it was not calculated to reconcile the two countries. As neither Mr. Huskisson’s observations nor the effect they must have had on us could possibly be denied, Mr. Canning did not attempt to make a direct answer, and said it was much better to make no allusion to Parliamentary speeches or proceedings of the same description; for, added he, there is a tremendous report of a committee of Congress which has almost the appearance of a manifesto issued on declaring war. I allowed that there were indeed some very strong expressions in the report in question, which is that of a committee, of which Mr. Baylies was chairman, on the territory west of the Stony Mountains; but that it was not the act of government, nor of any of the branches of government, nor of any minister presumed to speak the opinion of his government; that it expressed only the opinion of the members of the committee, whose report had not been approved, nor, as I believed, been taken into consideration by the House of Representatives. Mr. Canning said it was a dangerous power we gave to our committees, as a report of that kind, considered, as it was here, as a state paper, might in critical times decide the question whether the good understanding between the two countries should continue or not.
My general impression from the whole tenor of the conversation is that, whenever the proper time for an arrangement respecting the colonial intercourse arrives, it is probable that it must be done by a mutual understanding and not by a convention. The most pointed expression in that respect which fell from Mr. Canning was, that they might not be disposed in 1829 to have that intercourse placed on the same footing as in 1826. I only observed that, supposing both governments to be of opinion that it was best to let the intercourse be governed by the respective laws of each country, yet such was the situation in which they were now both placed, that there must be at least a previous mutual understanding before there could be any intercourse whatever; an observation in which he seemed to acquiesce.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, November 8, 1826.
I have received an informal explanation of the inquiry I had made respecting the Acts of Parliament affecting the colonial intercourse.
The statement made in my despatch of the 27th ult.1 is correct as relates to the facts. But it is asserted that although the Act of 6 Geo. IV., ch. 105, repeals, from the 8th July, 1826, amongst many other Acts, that of 3 Geo. IV., ch. 44, and although the Navigation Act of 6 Geo. IV., ch. 109, does not repeal any Act totidem verbis, yet, being declared to be the navigation law of the British Empire from the 5th January, 1826, it virtually repeals every Act concerning navigation the provisions of which are not contained in it, and therefore that the limitation of the Act 3 Geo. IV., ch. 44, or any other which prevented foreign vessels from exporting to any country produce from the British West Indies, was thus virtually repealed from the 5th January, 1826. How far this position agrees with the acknowledged rules for construing statutes I am not qualified to say, and is not very important.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 14th November, 1826.
In the conference of yesterday, at which the convention was signed, it was agreed that we should meet on to-morrow, the 15th, in order to enter on the negotiations on the other subjects. I believe that we will commence with that of the territory west of the Stony Mountains. I wrote to you at the time that I would not assent to the renewal of the convention of 1818 until I knew whether the steps taken by this government respecting the colonial intercourse had not produced some change in the President’s opinion respecting that renewal. If I receive no counter-order by the time it ought to reach me, I will conclude that none is intended, and act on the subject of that convention according to my instructions.
I received late last night Mr. Canning’s reply to my note of the 22d of September concerning the colonial intercourse. There is not time to transcribe it by this packet, as Mr. King has much to do and must set off to-day. It displays ingenuity and cleverness, but is altogether argumentative, containing nothing important or new or that changes the aspect of that question. Neither in this nor in any conversation has any symptom appeared of a disposition to change the ground assumed or to open again the intercourse in any shape.
I think the St. Lawrence question hopeless. I have not had time to write to you, as I intended, on that subject. My principal object was to state with precision the actual legislation of Great Britain as affecting that subject, or, generally, that of the intercourse by inland navigation between the United States and Canada. Any proposal founded on our right to navigate the river would not even be listened to; and I do not believe that they would even admit in a temporary agreement an express reservation of the right. I believe that all that can possibly be done at present will be to suggest such alterations in their own laws as may place the trade of our citizens in that quarter on as good footing as possible. This will leave our right entire till a better opportunity offers to bring it forward.
Mr. King is the bearer of the convention. I part with him with sincere regret, both on public and personal account. Mr. Lawrence is expected here to-morrow night.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
I have the honor to enclose a copy of Mr. Canning’s note of the 13th instant on the colonial intercourse, which was received on the 14th, and too late to be transmitted for the Liverpool packet of the 16th.
I might have animadverted on some parts of it. I had not denied the right of Great Britain to regulate, so far as depended on her own legislation, the intercourse between her colonies and the rest of the world. I had only insisted that that right did not extend to a power of controlling the laws of the United States on the same subject and operating within their own dominions.
Whilst insisting on their right to regulate as they deemed proper that intercourse with themselves and in that way, I did not pretend that they could claim, as a right, a participation in that trade. I had only adduced the circumstances connected with it, which made that claim a rational one, and the reasons why the United States had refused to enter into any agreement not founded on just and fair reciprocity. But it appeared to me unnecessary to travel again on the same ground and protract unprofitable discussion. On reading again Mr. Canning’s two notes and my own, I thought I might let the question rest on them, and I have only sent him the answer of this day, copy of which is enclosed.
I have already expressed my opinion that, whenever an arrangement may take place, it will be both much more practicable, and at least as advantageous to the United States, that it should be by an understanding only founded on the respective laws of the two countries. Whether an opportunity will, within any short time, present itself to effect that object in a manner consistent with the dignity of the United States, is quite uncertain; but it is best to be prepared for every contingency, and I hope that the President may be vested by Congress with sufficient powers to meet any state of things which may occur during the recess.
I have the honor, &c.
Upon reflection, I have concluded to suspend my answer to Mr. Canning.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 27th November, 1826.
In a private letter which I wrote to the President about two months ago, I mentioned that I was informed, through a respectable channel, that one of the King’s Ministers had, about the time that the order in council of July last was decided upon, expressed his great dissatisfaction at the language of the government of the United States in their diplomatic intercourse with Great Britain, to which he added that the United States seemed as if they wished to take an undue advantage of the temporary distresses of England, and that it was time for her to make a stand and to show her displeasure. Satisfied that nothing offensive whatever could be found in the diplomatic correspondence proper, either here or at Washington, I thought that, however extraordinary it might appear, the British Minister might have taken offence at some expressions in Mr. Adams’s instructions to Mr. Rush, which would naturally be written with more freedom of style than letters addressed to a British Minister. In this conjecture it now appears that I was mistaken.
It has been ascertained by my informant (who is well known to Mr. Rush, and he may give you his name) that it was Mr. Canning who made the complaint to a confidential friend, at which time, without mentioning to what he alluded, he also said that the language used by America was almost tantamount to a declaration of war, or words to that effect. This has at once pointed out to me what was the subject of complaint. I have stated in a former despatch my conversation of the 5th instant with Mr. Canning, in which he used the same language and nearly in the same words in reference to Mr. Baylies’s report on the territory west of the Stony Mountains. It is most undoubtedly that report which has given great offence, and I am apt to think that, though not the remote or only, it was the immediate cause of the order in council. Indeed, it is clear, from what you have justly observed in reference to the construction finally put, in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, on the Act of Parliament of July, 1825, and from the communication made to you in the winter by Mr. Vaughan respecting the appointment of an additional person to negotiate with the United States, that there was not at that time any disposition to refuse to negotiate on the subject of the colonial intercourse, or to exclude us altogether from it.
To the same cause must be ascribed the symptoms of susceptibility, not to say irritability, which have been shown in our last conferences on the Western territory. Great Britain certainly does not wish to be at war with the United States. The annual discussions in Congress on the establishment of a territorial government on the Pacific had shown what were the feelings in America on that subject, and, though not pleasant to the ears of the British Ministers, had been rather useful. These discussions had created sufficient alarm to make this government desirous of settling the matter, as appears by Mr. Canning’s letter, referred to in my instructions. But Mr. Baylies’s report struck beyond the mark, not at all in the arguments given in support of the American claim or to repel that of the British, but in the charges of inordinate ambition against Great Britain, and, above all, in the kind of defiance with which the report concluded. There are some points which no nation or government having such high notions of national honor and dignity as the United States and Great Britain will bear tamely to be touched upon in that manner. I think that Mr. Canning’s mistake was, from the manner in which committees are selected here, to have supposed that the report of a committee of Congress, not approved by the House, had in fact any or much more weight than a speech by one of its members. I have mentioned that I had explained this; but it seems that the impression is not yet erased. This shows the necessity of a concert, on all that is connected with the foreign relations of the country, between the Executive and the committees of Congress.
From what I have said you will easily infer that an arrangement on that Western territory is both more difficult and more important than had been apprehended. If none can be made, it will be necessary to come to some understanding with Great Britain which, without affecting the rights of either party, may prevent collisions, and yet enable us to acquire a solid footing in that country.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, December 22, 1826.
I had an interview on the 20th instant with Mr. Canning on the affairs of the Peninsula and its possible consequences. He entered at large on the views of the British government and on the steps which they had been compelled to take. They had repeatedly urged the evacuation of Spain by the French army as anti-British and giving an artificial support to the fanatic party. Mr. de Villèle had declared that the French government was equally desirous that it should speedily take place, and the King had last summer written an autograph letter to Ferdinand announcing that the troops would be withdrawn in April next. But the situation of Spain was such that this desirable measure would in all probability be necessarily protracted. It had then been distinctly announced to France that Great Britain was bound to protect the independence of Portugal, that she would not interfere with purely internal divisions in that country, but must assist it if attacked by or with the connivance of Spain. Measures had accordingly been taken in concert by England and France to prevent any such event happening, in consequence of which the Spanish government had entered into the engagements which I have mentioned in my despatch of October. These had been broken through the ascendency of the Apostolic party, perhaps contrary to the will of Ferdinand and of his Ministry. But those circumstances would explain why the British Ministry waited so late, and until the casus fœderis was perfectly clear, before they resorted to decisive measures.
It is, however, clear that Mr. Canning waited too long. He ought in October to have insisted on the recall of Du Moutiers, the French ambassador at Madrid, a tool of the Congregation party, and whose presence would certainly be considered in Spain as an evidence that France would support the Spanish Apostolic party. And he would have prevented every danger of Spanish co-operation with the Portuguese Anti-Constitutionalists had he sent the British troops to Portugal a month sooner. He was evidently uneasy on two accounts. Those troops might arrive too late; Miguel’s and the Queen Mother’s party is strong; the mass of the people superstitious and ignorant; the army, which has been organized under the Queen’s influence, not to be relied on; the new government not yet well organized. On the other hand, there has been a crisis in Paris, and it was still doubtful whether Villèle or the Congregation would prevail. You will see by this morning’s papers that, according to all appearances, Mr. Canning is relieved from anxiety on that subject, and that the French Ministry will act in concert with him. This, if fully confirmed, will in all probability arrest the Spanish party and prevent a war. But this was not certain on the day of our conference.
After Mr. Canning had concluded what he had to say, and from which his extreme desire that peace might be preserved was evident, I told him that, satisfactory as the views of the British government in that respect appeared to me, yet [it] was by no means certain that actual war between England and Spain could be avoided, and I must call his attention to the consequences such an event might have on the relations between the United States and Great Britain. That was the object of the interview I had asked.
It was, I said, understood between Great Britain and the United States that Cuba should not fall in the hands of either. I did not suspect that even the right which a state of war generally gives to attack the enemy anywhere would make any change in that respect, and that it could be the intention of England to attack the remaining Spanish colonies. “We have already too many,” was Mr. Canning’s observation. Yet when I proceeded to say that it would be satisfactory to have positive assurances to that effect, I received no answer. This induced me to enter more at large on the subject, and to try to impress strongly on his mind that it was impossible that the United States could acquiesce in the conquest by, or transfer of that island to, any great maritime power, and that the new American states, particularly Mexico, would be equally averse to it. All this was expressed in strong but general terms, and as if I took it for granted that England had no such object in view for herself and was disposed to act in concert with us. On that account I added that in the state of dissolution where Spain was, and considering the continued war between her and the new American states, it might be proper to consider whether it was practicable to keep Cuba much longer in that state which we had heretofore considered as the most desirable to England and to us. If not, the question would be, whether the island should be attached to Mexico or Colombia, or whether the white population was strong enough to maintain independence without danger from the blacks. Although I could draw no assurance respecting the views of Great Britain as to herself, Mr. Canning said that the subject was worthy of great consideration, and that he certainly would attend to it. His reluctance to speak more decisively must, perhaps, be ascribed partly to his usual caution, partly to some recollection of what had passed between him and Mr. King in regard to that island. I must add that I have no positive information of the presumed understanding to which I alluded as existing between the two countries on that subject; and that a report in circulation, and communicated to me, that there was an intention on the part of England to occupy Cuba, though probably without foundation, was one of my inducements to speak thus early on that subject.
I then proceeded to observe that there was another subject of the highest importance that might at once bring us into collision in case of an actual war between England and Spain. It was that of impressment. Such were the habits of British naval officers that there was imminent danger that in such an event they would, unless expressly forbidden, renew the practice. I then entered into the subject with great earnestness, and stated that it had been the great and leading cause of the last war, referring in proof to the refusal on our part of consenting to an armistice after the orders in council had been revoked, and to the instructions to make an arrangement on the subject a sine qua non condition of the peace, which had been modified only on account of this having become an abstract question in consequence of the general European peace. I gave a short statement of the argument on the question of right, showing that the practice was contrary to all the principles of the law of nations, as acknowledged by Great Britain, and that it could not be justified, even by the most remote analogy, by any of the belligerent rights claimed by herself. I then exposed the odious manner in which, and inconceivable extent to which, it had been carried, and the universal feeling excited thereby in every American heart. I concluded by saying that all this was intolerable; that no nation would submit to it; that it was impossible we should; and that the renewal of the practice would be considered as a declaration of war.
This and the manner in which it was said appeared to make an impression on Mr. Canning. He immediately asked whether I was not authorized to treat on the subject. I answered that he must have perceived by my powers that I was; but the advances heretofore made by the United States had been so received that my government did not think proper to renew them. I was instructed to that effect, but was authorized to receive and discuss any proposal the British government might make. The urgency of the case, events which had not been contemplated, had induced me to speak to him freely on the subject, in order principally to remind him of its importance, and to induce him to take such measures as those events might render necessary in order to prevent the perhaps fatal consequences that might ensue from pure inadvertence. The conversation ended by an assurance on the part of Mr. Canning that he felt the importance of both subjects (Cuba and impressment), and that he would take them into serious consideration.
It seems now probable that war will not take place between England and Spain. Yet this is not fully ascertained; and even in case it shall be avoided, both the subjects to which that possible event has called our attention, and particularly the last, may become part of the pending negotiations. This induces me to request that I may be put in possession of the views and determination of the President in regard to both.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
London, 29th December, 1826.
The state of our negotiations here may be stated as followeth:
Colonial intercourse.—A determination on the part of Great Britain not to arrange it by convention; a bare possibility that, if we comply with the conditions of the Acts of Parliament as explained in Mr. Canning’s notes (viz., no discriminating duties and no restrictions on our part on circuitous intercourse), an opportunity may offer to renew it on those terms; but even this Mr. Huskisson will prevent if he can, his object being to exclude our navigation altogether from that commerce.
St. Lawrence.—Wholly impracticable to obtain, and inexpedient to offer any article founded avowedly or by implication on our right to navigate that river; none suggested for a temporary arrangement of the inland intercourse with Canada, implying only, but without doubt, a reservation of the right; that intercourse already on a tolerable footing, and may be improved by some further British regulations consistent with the interest of Great Britain, and which I will suggest.
Convention of 1815 will probably be renewed without alteration; those that may be proposed communicated to Mr. Clay, with a request that I may be furnished with definitive instructions.
North-West boundary.—No agreement can be made at this time for a definitive boundary-line. It is probable that a simple renewal of the joint occupancy may be ultimately agreed on by Great Britain. The additional stipulations she asks have also been transmitted, with a similar request for instructions. It is particularly desirable to know what are the conditions thus proposed, which rather than agree to, it would be preferable not to renew at all the joint occupancy.
Impressments.—Great Britain may perhaps be induced to make some overture on that subject; and, if any change of opinion has taken place on the part of the United States since the last instructions to former ministers, new ones may be wanted and have been also asked.
Deserters, fugitives, &c.—These miscellaneous subjects may probably be arranged, and the instructions appear sufficient.
North-East boundary.—Extremely improbable that the British government will agree to a removal of the negotiation to Washington; still more so that, if they do, it will be for the purpose of attempting a compromise. We will have here a laborious and arduous negotiation solely to agree to the preliminary arrangements and mode of proceeding. Their project, which has been sent to Mr. Clay, will enable him to see their views and to suggest those of the United States. It is not apprehended that special instructions will be wanted, as care will be taken, in any agreement that may be concluded here, to leave the execution of the important parts to government at home.
It follows that if explicit and definitive instructions, sufficiently comprehensive and giving discretion on points not comprehended, such as will not render another reference to Washington necessary, are transmitted as early as possible, on convention of 1815, joint occupancy of Western territory, and impressments, I may conclude this next spring all that can be done at present. My principal object in writing is to entreat you most earnestly that this may be done. My absence is fatal to my two sons,—the youngest, just admitted at the bar, and with talents, having peculiarities of character which render my presence, advice, and countenance at this time, for the ensuing year, most essential to his future prospects in life and happiness; James, at thirty, not yet settled in business, and cannot be till after my return. I beg your pardon for entering into those details; they are extorted from me by anxiety at my time of life and with uncertain health. I should hope that by the middle of June, it appears to me impossible that by the first of August I shall not have terminated the negotiations here, provided the instructions are sent as requested. It is immaterial to me how I return, provided I have leave, either by the appointment of a successor, or, if you should wish to postpone that, on leave of absence. For the interval and current business Mr. Lawrence is adequate, much more so than any of his predecessors.
I had communicated to Count Lieven that we had concluded a convention accepting an indemnity in gross instead of that which might have been awarded under the St. Petersburg convention. He called on me some days ago to tell me that this would prove a very grateful intelligence to his sovereign, to whom Pozzo had communicated our conversation at Paris, and from whom he had just heard on the subject. Prince Lieven added that it would be extremely inconvenient to the Emperor to act as arbiter on the North-East boundary question, and to be obliged to give a decision that must be disagreeable to one or to the other party; that he therefore hoped and earnestly requested not to be applied to on that occasion. I said that, with the exception of the sentiments of respect for and confidence in the Emperor, and of the reluctance to have appealed to him for explanations of the decision of his predecessor, what I had said to Pozzo was personal conversation, and did not come from my government. I then said that the name of the Emperor was the first on my list, having then been continued since his accession, and that if our negotiation here reached that point (which was improbable), I was bound to propose him; that if he should be the simultaneous choice of England and the United States, it was confidently hoped that he would not, indeed he hardly could, refuse. I added all that suggested itself, of the fitness of Russia for the office, of the usefulness of such references if more general, of the high degree of consideration accruing to the monarch selected by such nations as Great Britain and the United States, of what was complimentary and calculated to make a favorable impression. If the question is not referred to the Emperor, he will know to whom it is owing, which, notwithstanding the Nolo episcopari, he will feel. I have formerly intimated that there was an approximation between Russia and Great Britain. This, though true, I consider as only temporary. The British have contrived, by superadding intolerable arrogance to almost intolerable wealth and power, to make themselves almost universally detested; and, if they force us ultimately into a quarrel, we will have nearly as many well-wishers and friends as in 1776, when, except Portugal and their paid auxiliaries, they had not one in Europe. I only regret that they should at this moment appear as at the head of the liberal party. But nothing can be more bitter to France than to be compelled, as she now is, to act in concert with, and, as if it were, as the follower of, England. This, however, after a struggle, owing as much to the hatred against her as to the influence of the Congregation, she must and will do; and I hope that the war between Spain and England will be prevented. Although all my faculties are exerted, and it is far from being the first time, in trying to accommodate differences and to remove causes of rupture, it is impossible for me not to see and feel the temper that prevails here towards us. It is perceptible in every quarter and on every occasion, quite changed from what it was in 1815-1821; nearly as bad as before the last war; only they hate more and despise less, though they still affect to conceal hatred under the appearance of contempt. I would not say this to any but to you and your confidential advisers; and I say it, not in order to excite corresponding feelings, but because I think that we must look forward, and make those gradual preparations which will make us ready for any emergency, and which may be sufficient to preserve us from the apprehended danger.
I remain, &c.
January 5, 1827.
I congratulate you on your message. After the usual ill-natured comments, the tone of the most furious journals, even of the hostile and influential Times, has become more temperate. The last article on that subject in the Courier has all the appearance to have come from the Foreign Office. On the whole, the message has had, I think, a favorable effect on the public mind.
I must say, after my remarks on the temper here, that I have been personally treated with great, by Mr. Canning with marked, civility.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 30th December, 1826.
Reports of an intention on the part of this government to attack Cuba are still in circulation, more indicative, I think, of popular feeling than of the views of the Ministry. Yet, and notwithstanding his habitual reserve, there was no reason why Mr. Canning should not, in our conversation, have most explicitly disavowed any such intention. In all I said I took it for granted that there was a positive understanding between the United States and Great Britain that neither should occupy that island. The only papers in my possession on that subject are your three letters to Mr. King of 10th May, 17th and 26th October, 1825. Neither those which passed between Mr. King and Mr. Canning, nor the communications which may have taken place, either at Washington or through Mr. Rush, between the two governments, have been put in my hands. There certainly would have been an advantage in signing the agreement proposed by Mr. Canning (which I know only from your letter to Mr. King), not with the view he suggested in reference to Spain, but for the purpose of binding Great Britain.
You will see by to-day’s papers that Chateaubriand, in his speech to the House of Peers, said “that England could not take Cuba without making war on the United States, and that she knew it.” This I had told him when he was Minister, and included France in the declaration. He would have agreed to the tripartite instrument. You renewed the declaration in a more official shape to his successor. What was the result I do not know; but I would apprehend no difficulty from that quarter if you should agree, and England was still of the same opinion. To be at ease on that question is important. Whether afterwards the island remained with Spain, became independent, or was annexed to Mexico,—though there is a choice between the alternatives,—would be far less essential.
In the mean while, might not a hint be given to Governor Vives to be on his guard?
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 30th December, 1826.
I have already expressed my wish that your instructions respecting the continued joint occupancy of the territory west of the Stony Mountains should be sufficiently comprehensive to prevent the necessity of another reference to Washington.
It seems to me that, for that purpose, they may be reduced to two points. What are the conditions which you would think desirable, or (considering the declarations of the British plenipotentiaries) necessary to be added to the former article, either as a part of the convention, or to be entered as the understanding of the parties in the protocol? What are the conditions proposed or suggested by Great Britain which you may consider as inadmissible, so that, if insisted upon, you would prefer that no renewal of the former agreement for a joint occupancy should take place?
My reason for earnestly desiring that the instructions on that subject may be definitive is the extreme anxiety I feel not to be detained here beyond the end of the spring. With such instructions, and if in possession of your ultimate views concerning impressments (in case Great Britain should make an overture on that subject), I anticipate no cause that can detain me beyond that period.
The negotiation respecting the preliminary arrangements in relation to an arbitration of the North-East boundary will be very laborious; but, as it will either leave all that is important and will require more discretionary power than I wish to exercise for government to decide on and to execute, or will terminate in a transfer of the negotiation itself to Washington, this cannot compel me to remain here. On all other subjects I will have concluded in time all that can at this time be done; and as the negotiations intrusted to my care will thus be for the present at an end, I will ask, according to the previous understanding, leave to return, taking my departure from 1st of June to 1st of August, beyond which last date it is impossible that the negotiations should be protracted, if no second reference to Washington be necessary.
If convenient to make a nomination of a successor before the next session of Congress, I would ask then to be permitted to return on leave of absence, leaving Mr. Lawrence as chargé d’affaires. In order to effect that object I have labored almost beyond my strength, and will continue my efforts to the last moment.
I have the honor, &c.
[1 ]See American State Papers (Foreign Relations), vi. 249.
[1 ]The beginning of this letter is printed in American State Papers, vi. 294.
[1 ]This note will be found in American State Papers, vol. vi. (Foreign Relations) p. 254.
[1 ]See State Papers (Foreign Relations), vol. vi. p. 294.