Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1827: GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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1827: GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY. - 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 HENRY CLAY.
London, 28th January, 1827.
I have the honor to enclose the copy of a note from Mr. Canning, dated the 27th instant, and written in answer to mine of 28th ult.
The following observations have occurred on reading that note, viz.:
1. Your letter to Mr. Cambreleng was adduced in order to prove (and the evidence was perhaps superfluous) what was your understanding of the meaning and intent of the Act of Parliament therein referred to, and that the British government must have been informed of it.
2. No other inference can be drawn from the vote of the House of Representatives, alluded to by Mr. Canning, than that, notwithstanding the view of the subject entertained by the Baltimore petitioners, that body did concur with the Executive in the above-mentioned opinion of the meaning and intent of the Act of Parliament.
3. The British government was so clearly and early informed of the passing and of the true intent of the Act of Congress of 1st March, 1825, that Mr. Stratford Canning opened a correspondence on the subject with the Secretary of State on the 27th of the same month. And not only was the Act communicated, but it appears by Mr. Adams’s letter to Mr. Rush of the 23d of June, 1823, that, while the bill was in discussion before a committee of the Senate, a copy of it was communicated to Mr. S. Canning, who made some written remarks upon it, which were immediately submitted to the consideration of the committee.
4. Whatever inconvenience there might have been in a general communication, by the British government, of the Acts of Parliament of 5th July, 1825, to all foreign nations, there was a sufficient and forcible reason for making such a communication to the United States, since they were the only nation with which Great Britain had ever opened a negotiation on the subject; a negotiation which was only suspended, and which the United States must, as they actually did, have expected would be resumed, until informed of the altered determination of the British government in that respect.
The President will decide whether it is proper to present those observations, or any other which the note may suggest, to Mr. Canning’s consideration. In the mean while, although there is no symptom in his note of a disposition to renew the negotiations on that subject, or in any shape to open the colonial intercourse to the American navigation, yet the general temper and tone of the note are so different from those manifested in that of the 11th of September, that, keeping in view the effect which a further discussion of that point might have on the other pending negotiations, I have concluded for the present, and unless otherwise instructed, to abstain from making any reply to the note. I had the honor to receive on the 26th instant your despatch No. 16, of 28th December last; I entirely concur in your opinion that in all probability the British government would be well satisfied with such a state of legislation as would give the commerce between her colonies and the United States to Danish or any other vessels to the exclusion of our navigation. Nothing can of course be done until the result of the deliberations of Congress shall have been ascertained. Whatever this may be, and however unpromising the appearance of any change of system here, I think that it will be useful, after the Act of Congress is passed, to provide the minister of the United States here with such instructions as may enable him to avail himself of any new circumstances that may occur and induce this government to alter their opinion.
I beg leave to repeat that if they do, they will, I am almost sure, adhere to their determination that the trade should be regulated rather by mutual legislation than by convention. I have in a former despatch suggested some considerations why this course might, with all its inconveniences, be nevertheless advantageous in some respects to the United States.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 30th January, 1827.
I have the honor to enclose copy of Mr. Canning’s answer to my note of the 26th instant, announcing to him the ratification by the President of the convention of 13th November last. It is hoped that the exchange may take place early enough in the day on the 6th of February to enable Mr. Wyer to reach Liverpool, so as to sail in the packet of the 8th.
A despatch from Mr. Brent to you received last night, and which had been left open for my perusal, is herewith transmitted.
I was interrupted yesterday, and had not time before the closing of the mail to say what I intended respecting the reports of the commission on the North-East boundary. That of Mr. Van Ness had, on a first reading, struck me as conclusive and remarkably well drawn; but I could not appreciate its full merit till I had perused all the papers. It may be shortened in some respects, made more forcible in some others, and will require some addition to guard against new grounds which I have reason to believe will be taken by the British plenipotentiaries. But the question is placed in it on its true ground, and with great propriety disengaged from the maze of contradictory surveyors’ reports in which the British agent tried to involve the subject so as to divert the attention from its true merits. As it will in some shape or another revert to you, and your other occupations may not leave you time to read and investigate all the documents, I think that I may say with confidence that that report alone, together with the statement that I will have probably to prepare, will be sufficient to make you master of the subject. What relates to the boundary along the 45th parallel of latitude must be excepted, as Mr. Van Ness gave no opinion on that point. Mr. Bradley’s arguments have also great merit, and embrace or allude to almost all that can be said. But, as he was obliged to follow and reply to the British agent, his argument, divided as it is into three distinct pleadings, is less condensed, and is encumbered with matter which may now be considered as unnecessary for a complete understanding of the subject.
As relates to the boundary of Maine, there cannot be any doubt of our right: the irksome pleadings of the British agent are a tissue of unfounded assertions and glaring sophistry, and the British commissioner’s decision on that point is scandalous. Although I think we are in the right on the north-west source of the Connecticut, the British have at least plausible ground. We have a decent objection with respect to the boundary from the Connecticut to the St. Lawrence (not the geocentric latitude), and that is all.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO J. BROWN, U. S. Minister at Paris.
London, 2d February, 1827.
My dear Sir,—
The want of a safe opportunity has prevented my addressing you earlier on a subject less important perhaps now than it threatened to be some weeks ago, but which may still deserve your attention.
As soon as I could obtain an interview from Mr. Canning after his speech on the King’s message relating to the affairs of Portugal, I mentioned to him that as the question of war between Great Britain and Spain must now depend on the course Spain might pursue, our attention should be turned to the consequences, as affecting the relations between the United States and Great Britain, which might grow out of a state of actual war. Repeating then what you know to be the views of the United States respecting Cuba, I said that although those of Great Britain were known to accord with ours, and although there had been an understanding between the two countries that neither should attempt to take possession of that island, yet it would be satisfactory to receive assurances that the intentions and conduct of Great Britain would not be changed by a state of war between her and Spain. I then made some further observations on what might be done in concert with a view to the ultimate fate of Cuba in case it should be found impossible to prevent her remaining a dependency of Spain. Mr. Canning thought proper to make no satisfactory answer to this overture, and only said that he would take the subject into his serious consideration. It must be observed that, having not found here any part of the correspondence of my predecessors, I know nothing positively of what had passed between them and this government on that subject. I have no knowledge of the understanding which, in speaking to Mr. Canning, I took for granted, but from hearsay and what may be inferred from a despatch from Mr. Clay to Mr. King in relation to the proposal by Mr. Canning of a tripartite agreement between Great Britain, the United States, and France, which I have not seen, and which Mr. Clay appears to have declined. But I see that you were instructed to make some declaration to the French government on that subject.
This government has no wish, if they can avoid it, to be at war with Spain, still less that such an event should involve them either with the United States or France. And it is probable that this last country would not forget, in the course of her discussions with England, the danger of her taking the opportunity of a Spanish war to seize that most valuable of all colonies. Yet, as nothing that can be done ought to be neglected on our part, it has struck me that, if practicable and proper, it would be advantageous that France should be reminded of that subject, as it might have a double beneficial effect. A view of that danger might make France more earnest in her efforts to induce Spain to cease giving just causes of offence, and to pursue a course calculated to preserve peace. And in case of war, the representations of France to England, co-operating with ours, would cause this government to reflect seriously before they should take any step that might compel France as well as ourselves to depart from our intended neutrality. I submit these observations to your judgment, hoping, however, that the danger is lessened, and that we may soon receive instructions adapted to a state of things which had not been anticipated at Washington. It is very clear that an attempt to occupy Cuba would be as offensive, if not more so, to the new American states than to us. This cannot but be well known to the British government; but, considering the relative situation of the parties at this moment, no energetic representations can be expected from the ministers of those states at this Court on that point.
You will have seen that a convention concluded here on the 13th of November, by which Great Britain engages to pay 1,200,000 dollars in lieu of the indemnity which might have been adjudged by the commission under the St. Petersburg convention (for slaves, &c., carried away contrary to the Treaty of Ghent), has been ratified by the President. The ratifications will be exchanged here on the 6th instant. In other respects our negotiations will not produce any important results. This government appears determined to persist in excluding us from any intercourse with the British West India colonies, and I am satisfied they were glad of an opportunity or pretence for so doing. We may renew the commercial convention of 1815. We cannot agree on a boundary west of the Stony Mountains; and the utmost that may be done on that subject, if anything can be done, is to renew for a longer period the agreement for a joint occupancy of that territory in such manner as to preserve our rights and prevent actual collision. As to the North-East boundary, all we can do, and it is difficult, is to prepare the case for a fair trial before the foreign power who may be selected as arbiter. I must add that of late, though the temper, which I found much altered for the worse since 1818, may not be much better, the language at least of this government is much more conciliatory than when I first came.
I remain, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 22d February, 1827.
Finding that Mr. Huskisson had been out on business, and knowing Mr. Addington to be anxious that our conferences might be resumed, I wrote him a private note to ask that no further delay might intervene. He has sent me one written to him by Mr. Huskisson, copy of which is enclosed. It is true that he is still indisposed, and that an extraordinary sitting of the council was for that reason held at his house. But there may be also some other reasons for the delay. His measures are strongly attacked from the shipping interest and from other quarters; and he is, perhaps, not quite prepared to enter into a discussion of the renewal of the commercial convention. The enclosed short statement of the entered tonnage for 1826 shows that it is not in the intercourse with the United States alone that, when placed on a footing of equality, the British cannot stand the competition of foreign shipping. Indeed, if the countries that have no navigation (Russia, Spain, Portugal, and Turkey) and the British colonies are excepted, it will be found that in the intercourse of Great Britain with the rest of the world the ratio of British to foreign tonnage employed is about 2:3.
Mr. Canning is recovering from a serious indisposition, but has not yet left Brighton. Lord Liverpool may survive and linger, but it is universally admitted that his political life is ended. Independent of his great weight in the nation and in the House of Lords, he was the principal bond of union of the present Cabinet, supporting the general policy of Messrs. Canning and Huskisson, but connected at the same time with the Chancellor, &c., by his opinions on the Catholic question. The King’s extreme love of ease and aversion to any change, and the opposition which each party in the Cabinet makes to the introduction of a new member not of their own color, render it probable that either Mr. Robinson will be transferred to the House of Lords, or that some man of high rank and considered as of no party and of no importance will be the nominal Premier. Yet the want of some able leader of the House of Lords may render another course necessary. Until this is settled there cannot be any important progress made in our own affairs. And these are not likely to be affected by the result, whatever it may be. The dissensions in the Cabinet relate to internal objects (the Catholic question, corn laws, &c.), and not to the foreign policy of the country.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 6th March, 1827.
* * * * * * * * * *
The delay which Mr. Huskisson’s indisposition has occasioned in our negotiations is very vexatious. On my suggestion he has assented that Mr. Addington and myself should try to arrange some of the details of the North-East boundary; and we have already had two informal conversations on the subject. I find him extremely unmanageable, not from ignorance, for he has well studied the details, but because he has imbibed all the prejudices and zeal of the British agents and provincial authorities on that question. His object is clearly not that the parties should have a fair trial before the arbiter, but to take every advantage he can possibly gain.
From a thorough investigation of that subject, I am enabled to say that the only point on which the British may give us infinite trouble, create interminable delays, and induce any sovereign to decline making a decision, is that which relates to the topography of the country. Is the character, the nature of the ground which divides the sources of the northern tributary streams of the river St. John’s from those of the waters of the river St. Lawrence, and along which our line runs, or of the ground which divides the sources of the southern tributary streams of the St. John’s from those of the waters of the Penobscot, and along which the British line runs, such as to come within the treaty designation of highlands? This, if raised, and it has been raised on both sides, is the interminable question. Mr. Commissioner Van Ness saw it in its true light, and rested his decision on this, that it was not the nature of the ground, but the position of the highlands, respectively contended for, which was alone to be taken into consideration.
This admits that the two contending lines may both be considered as being generally highlands, leaving as the only question at issue, “Which are the highlands meant by the treaty?” And it is to that point that we must try to bring the British government to assent, if we mean to obtain a decision. The first act of the arbiter, if under such circumstances we can find any sovereign to act as such, will otherwise be to demand an actual survey of both lines, with the elevations, sections, &c., both of the lines and of the adjacent country. For you must know that after four years and forty thousand dollars expended in making what has been called surveys, none have been actually made but that of the line extending north from the river St. Croix, of one of the branches of the Connecticut, and six or seven portages (two or three miles in length each) between the sources of the St. John’s and either the Penobscot or the St. Lawrence. But the relative position of those portages and the courses of all the rivers, as delineated in the various plans and maps reported by the commission and in your possession, are merely conjectural. They were all guessed at, by walking over the ground, estimating the distances, and taking the courses very incorrectly; but the distances are not measured; the chain was not used. And as to the hills or ridges delineated on those maps, they were not even walked over, but seen, as it is said, from the summit of three or four detached mountains, the position of only one of which (Mars Hill) is ascertained.
With such materials, what I have proposed is, that we should agree to make in concert a general map on the plan stated in the enclosed paper, filling the blanks, so far as relates to the river-courses, in the best manner we could, taking the conjectural plans of our surveyors where they agree, and where they did not agree, in such manner as will not affect the question any way.
This proposal, in its general terms, has been acceded to. I meet, of course, with difficulties and cavils at every step, but hope, nevertheless, to succeed in having a map agreed on, on both sides, which will represent all the water-courses, portages, &c., the north line from the source of the St. Croix, the two boundarylines respectively contended for, and will indeed be complete in every respect, the presumed hills and ridges only excepted. This will, at all events, be a considerable point gained, by reducing the number of contested facts. If we cannot agree to expunge, as I wish it to be done, the imaginary delineation of ridges, then we must have two maps, as contemplated in that case in the enclosed paper, but which will differ in no respects than as relates to the said presumed ridges.
If we can even obtain nothing more, I think that the argument may be managed on our part in such manner as to prevent the necessity of further surveys; but this will be a subsequent consideration. On the subject of evidence other than that of the surveys, there ought to be no difficulty; but I apprehend that, unless checked by his government, Mr. Addington’s views in that respect will be found, I use the word with reluctance, very unfair.
The whole subject is extremely complex and difficult. The intrinsic difficulties I think I can now manage, having devoted two entire months to that object, in the course of which I have obtained some valuable additional facts; but I cannot answer for the disposition necessary to meet from the other party in order to come to a favorable result.
I had the honor to receive your despatch No. 17, and have taken the steps necessary to obtain the information you want on the subject of patents.
I have the honor, &c.
This government regularly receives from their minister at Washington all the documents printed by order of Congress. None are sent to me, and, unless printed in the newspapers transmitted, I am left without the necessary information.
(Paper enclosed in the above.)
One general plan or map of the country, exhibiting all the actual surveys of both parties, to be made under the joint direction of the plenipotentiaries. If, in the progress of the work, some points of difference should arise on which the plenipotentiaries could not agree, then two separate maps to be made, noting in the margin of each the points of difference. The said map or two maps, as the case may be, to be laid before the arbiter in lieu of all the general maps, surveys, plans, and reports of the several surveyors and assistants employed on both sides under the late commission.
J. Q. ADAMS TO GALLATIN.
Washington, 20th March, 1827.
I have received from you several very kind and friendly letters, for which the unremitted pressure of public business during the session of Congress has not permitted me to make the due return of acknowledgment. The march of time, which stays not for the convenience or the humors of men, has closed the existence of that body for the present, and they have left our relations with Great Britain precisely where they were.
The sudden and unexpected determination of the British government to break off all negotiation concerning the colonial trade, and the contemporaneous measure of interdicting the vessels of the United States from all their ports in the West Indies, as well as many others, have taken us so much by surprise that a single short session of Congress has not been sufficient to mature the system by which we may most effectively meet this new position assumed by the colonial monopoly of Great Britain. One of the principal causes of our anxiety to regulate the trade by treaty was the precarious uncertainty of all regulations by legislative enactment; and the necessity, inconvenient in its operation to both parties and necessarily ruinous to numerous individuals, that each party should adapt its laws to the measures of the other. Without going beyond the period of our peace of Ghent, it is obvious that the legislation of Great Britain upon this subject since her first interdict of July, 1815, has been variable as the winds. Our Acts of 1818, of 1820, and of 1823 have been mere expedients on our part, successively applied to her successive changes of position by Act of Parliament or by order in council. For it is observable that the British system of regulation, in this concern, has not even the stability of common or statute law. It is always left to the arbitrary discretion of the King in council, while the unchanging spirit which guided and governed every movement both of Parliament and of the council has been that, distinctly avowed by Mr. Huskisson, of promoting the British navigation and of thwarting and depressing ours. Our preference of negotiation for the adjustment of this complicated and perplexing subject was chiefly because we believed it the most effective means for bringing the parties to a satisfactory result. But the tenor of Mr. Canning’s communications since the British government have reverted to the system of absolute interdict to our shipping has very much the appearance of a purpose the ostensible reason for which was different from the real motive by which it was dictated.
Mr. Canning appears to be very solicitous to impress the idea that Great Britain was ready and willing to meet us on principles of reciprocity, by the offers contained in her Act of Navigation of 5th July, 1825; and that she resorted to the interdict of the order in council of 27th July, 1826, only because we did not immediately accept those offers and conform our legislation to them. But it would be a very unworthy motive for rejecting now a commercial arrangement suited to the interests and promotive of the harmony of both parties, upon the mere ground that it was not accepted at the instant when it was proposed.
At the late session of Congress the disposition was common to all parties in both Houses to accede to the terms upon which the trade was opened by the Acts of Parliament of 5th July, 1825. But on the one hand it was believed that in the acceptance of those terms we conceded great and uncompensated advantages to the British shipping, and that these concessions ought at least to be so limited as to provide for the contingency of their proving to be unavailing; while, on the other, less value was set upon the trade than upon the political convenience of exaggerating its value and descanting upon its loss. Bills for regulating the trade in full conformity with the Acts of Parliament of 5th July, 1825, were introduced into both Houses, and one of them passed both Houses under modifications of amendment upon which they could not agree, and by their difference upon which the bill failed.
This has left upon the Executive the obligation of issuing the proclamation prescribed by the Act of March, 1823, by which our Navigation Acts of 1818 and 1820 are revived. It is understood that by the construction given to the Acts of Parliament and the order in council in the West Indies the produce of the United States will not be admitted even in British vessels from the Swedish and Danish islands. The effect of the double interdict will therefore be tried by fair experiment,—on our part with much reluctance, but because we have no other alternative.
From the state of your negotiation upon the other subjects of interest in discussion between the two governments, as exhibited in your latest despatches and letters, there is little encouragement to expect a satisfactory result regarding them. There are difficulties in the questions themselves; difficulties still more serious in the exorbitant pretensions of Great Britain upon every point; difficulties, to all appearance insuperable, in the temper which Great Britain now brings into the management of the controversy. For the causes of this present soreness of feeling we must doubtless look deeper than to the report of a committee of our House of Representatives, or to the assertion by the late President that the American continents were no more subject to future colonization from Europe. As the assertion of this principle is an attitude which the American hemisphere must assume, it is one which no European power has the right to question; and if the inference drawn from it of danger to existing colonies has any foundation, it can only be on the contingency of a war, which we shall by all possible means avoid. As to the report of Mr. Baylies, if Mr. Canning has not enough upon his hands to soothe the feelings of foreign nations for what he says in Parliament himself, he would think it passing strange to be called to account for offences of that character committed by Mr. Brougham or Mr. Hume. He surely cannot be so ill informed of the state of things existing here as not to know that Mr. Baylies is not the man by whom the sentiments or opinions of this or of the last Administration of the government of the United States were or are wont to be expressed. The origin, rise, and progress of this “Oregon Territory Committee,” of which Mr. Baylies became at last the chairman, is perhaps not known even to you; but you may remember it was the engine by means of which Mr. Jonathan Russell’s famous duplicate letter was brought before the House of Representatives and the nation, and that incident will give you a clue to the real purposes for which that committee was raised, and to the spirit manifested in the report of Mr. Baylies.
Upon the whole, if the same inflexible disposition which you have found prevailing upon the subject of the colonial trade, and of which indications so distinct have been given upon the boundary questions and the navigation of the St. Lawrence, should continue unabated, our last resource must be to agree upon the renewal for ten years of the convention of 1818. This would probably now obtain the advice and consent of the Senate for ratification. On the colonial trade question the opposition here have taken the British side, and their bill in the Senate was concession unqualified but by a deceptive show of future resistance. But you must not conclude that the same spirit would be extended to anything in the shape of concession which you might send to us in a treaty. One inch of ground yielded on the North-West coast, one step backward from the claim to the navigation of the St. Lawrence, one hair’s-breadth of compromise upon the article of impressment, would be certain to meet the reprobation of the Senate. In this temper of the parties, all we can hope to accomplish will be to adjourn controversies which we cannot adjust, and say to Britain, as the Abbé Bernis said to Cardinal Fleuri, “Monseigneur, j’attendrai.”
Your instructions will be forwarded in season that you may be subjected to no delay in bringing the negotiation to an issue; but I regret exceedingly the loss to the public of your continued services. The political and commercial system of Great Britain is undergoing great changes. It will certainly not stop at the stage where it now stands. The interdicting order in council of last July itself has the air of a start backwards by Mr. Huskisson from his own system to the old navigation laws. His whole system is experimental against deep-rooted prejudice and a delusion of past experience. I could earnestly have wished that it might have been consistent with your views to remain a year or two longer in England, and I should have indulged a hope that in the course of that time some turn in the tide of affairs might have occurred which would have enabled us, with your conciliatory management of debatable concerns, to place our relations with Great Britain upon a more stable and friendly foundation.
Your proposal that a troy pound weight of platina should be procured for the use of our mint deserves serious consideration. But I incline at present to the opinion that the copy of a standard weight should be of the same metal as the standard itself. You are aware that the standard platina kilogramme at Paris is of no earthly use except to verify the weight of other standards in vacuo; with all which it disagrees when weighed anywhere but in an exhausted receiver.
There are some other observations in your letters upon which I shall take the opportunity of conferring with you when we meet; remaining in the mean time, with unaltered respect and attachment, your friend.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 21st March, 1827.
Mr. Canning is so far recovered as to have been able to give audiences to most of the foreign ministers. I had a short interview with him yesterday, in which he expressed his and Mr. Huskisson’s regret that the progress of our negotiations should have been arrested by this gentleman’s indisposition, and his hope that he would be able to resume the conferences week after next.
In the mean while, Mr. Addington, with Mr. Huskisson’s approbation, and myself have agreed to have a general map prepared of the surveys, or rather explorations, made by order of the late commission under the 5th Article of the Treaty of Ghent. This general map is to be substituted for the two contradictory general maps respectively presented by the American and British agents to the board, but neither of which, both being objected to by the other party, was filed. But, so far as we have agreed, it is to show only the water-courses, sources of the rivers, and portages, and the lines respectively claimed by each party. It is one step gained towards simplifying the question and enabling a friendly sovereign to decide it. But on the difficult point, what must be considered as highlands generally under the treaty, we have not yet been able to agree; and if we do not, all the detailed surveys and the reports of surveyors must go before the arbiter and become a subject of discussion. It is hardly probable that any sovereign can be found who would be either able or willing to decide on a question depending on contested topographical facts, such as the elevation and nature of the ground. New surveys and interminable delays would, at all events, be the consequence. The misfortune is that, if we can by mutual admissions get rid of that difficulty, the argument will be so clearly in our favor that it is the interest of Great Britain to continue to perplex the subject by still insisting that there are no highlands along our assumed line. And in this assertion they are countenanced by a letter from Judge Sullivan to Mr. Madison, and one from Mr. Madison to Mr. King, dated 8th June, 1802, both of which have been published in the tenth volume of our public documents (page 474 to 482).
On that subject I can do nothing with Mr. Addington, who has imbibed all the feelings of the British agent and commissioner, and has on that question all the zeal of a partisan. I will press earnestly on Mr. Huskisson, and, if necessary, on Mr. Canning, the propriety of reducing the question to one on which a foreign [sovereign] can decide, and the impossibility of his so doing if we call on him to pronounce on contested facts of that nature. If I cannot succeed in that respect, there will be no resource than so to manage the argument as that the decision may not be made to depend on contested facts; and this will require admissions on our part somewhat injurious, though, as I confidently believe, not fatal, to our cause.
I think that I could collect from Mr. Canning that he is not very uneasy about the King’s choice of a Prime Minister, but that the decision is not yet made. He observed, as a singular fact in the operation of the British Constitution, that at this moment the King was everything. It is sufficiently known that, once the Ministry settled, he is and desires to be nobody.
The late news from Spain appear quite satisfactory, and Mr. Canning considers them as such.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 29th March, 1827.
* * * * * * * * * *
Although I have received an indirect intimation that Mr. Canning intended, as soon as the Ministerial arrangements were completed, to confer with me on that topic, there is but a slender expectation that anything can at this time be done in that respect. His opinions formerly were, those of the Chancellor and other influential characters continue to be, hostile to the just rights of the United States. Still, on a question which if not arranged in time of peace it will cost another war to settle, it is important to know at least what are, at this time, the views of this government.
You will [see] by the newspapers that Mr. Canning has communicated to Parliament his correspondence with me on the colonial intercourse. He was reported to have said, in answer to a question of Mr. Hume, that he considered the correspondence as final, since he had the last word. The same day this appeared in the morning papers he addressed me a private note in the following words: “March 27, 1827. My dear Sir,—The newspapers (at least those which I happened to see) do not report quite correctly what I said in answer to the question, ‘whether the correspondence which I laid yesterday on the table of the House of Commons was final.’ What I did say was that it was my interest to hope so, as at present I had the last word.” I do not believe this to have been written in order to raise an expectation that he was disposed to negotiate on that subject, but only to intimate that he had not treated it with unbecoming levity. In point of fact the answer was instantaneous, and intended to evade giving a direct one to what was the obvious object of the question put by Mr. Hume.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 28th April, 1827.
* * * * * * * * * *
At the dinner of the 23d, Mr. Canning came near Baron Humboldt and me and told us, “You see that the opinion universally entertained abroad, and very generally indeed in England, that this government is an aristocracy, is not true. It is,” said he, emphatically, “a monarchy. The Whigs had found it out in 1784, when they tried to oppose the King’s prerogative of choosing his Prime Minister. The Tories have now repeated the same experiment, and with no greater success.” He appears certainly very confident, and speaks of any intended opposition in Parliament as if he had no fear of it. As all the leading newspapers are in his favor, I enclose the only pamphlet of note that has appeared on the other side.
An infusion of Whiggism in the Ministry, by the accession of such a man as the Marquis of Lansdowne, might perhaps, after a while, have produced some favorable change in the policy of the Administration towards the United States. For the present, none can be expected. I do not believe that there is a single question between us in which the Ministers will not be supported by the public opinion of the country in taking rank ground against us. Our dependence for friendly arrangements rests solely on the superior sense of the Ministers. Unfortunately, Mr. Huskisson is less favorably disposed towards the United States, principally on commercial subjects, than towards any other country. And, having to meet in other respects a formidable opposition to his plans, he may be disposed to regain some popularity with the shipping interest by pursuing with the United States measures inconsistent with his avowed general principles on that subject. If there is any reaction as relates to us, it must come from the West Indies, and perhaps, at last, from the manufacturing interests.
I have been compelled to remain perfectly quiet for the last months; but now that a temporary Administration is formed, which will last at least as long as this session of Parliament, I will ascertain in the course of next week whether it is intended that our negotiations should be resumed. Mr. Canning, on the 23d, again expressed great regret that they should have been so long interrupted, and intimated his intention of having, within a few days, a special conversation with me.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 21st May, 1827.
Mr. Canning, in a private note written in answer to mine, says that the immense arrear of business (owing, I presume, to Mr. Huskisson’s long indisposition), coupled with attendance in the House of Commons, has occupied every moment of Mr. Huskisson’s time, as well as of his own, since the formation of the government; but that he ventures to promise in both their names that mine shall be the first foreign business taken in hand.
It is not certainly meant thereby to say that they will postpone, in favor of our business, that which relates to Portugal and even to Greece, both of which continue to engross daily the attention of the Ministry. And I have now no expectation that our negotiations will be resumed before the adjournment of Parliament, which is expected to take place about the middle of June.
I will not have, before that time, any opportunity of ascertaining, better than they are now known to me, the dispositions of this government respecting a renewal of the colonial intercourse. I have no doubt myself on that point; I have had none from the time when Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson communicated their intentions and what would be the substance of Mr. Canning’s note of the 11th September last. The tenor and manner of the conversation were decisive, quite so as to the fixed determination not to renew the negotiations, sufficient, when combined with the declaration in the note, to satisfy me that the object was in fact to exclude us altogether from any participation in the trade.
Everything which has occurred since, amongst others the communication from the Board of Trade to the ship-owners, and Mr. Huskisson’s gratulatory remarks on the result, have strengthened my opinion. It must be added that the measure is universally popular in England, and that the only chance of a change of this policy is the effect it may have on the West India colonies and the complaints these may address to government.
I think it quite immaterial as to the nature of the answer that will be given, whether the application is made now or in October, or whether the substance of your despatch of 11th April (No. 26) is communicated in one or made the subject of two notes. The subject would be presented more perspicuously and forcibly together than by being divided, since the inquiry is the consequence of the facts and arguments previously stated.
But what appears to me important is to avoid any argument on abstract questions of right, and every statement of facts which may be controverted or indeed give rise to any cavil.
It has been Mr. Canning’s object from the first outset to divert the attention from the real intentions of the British government and from the just reasons we had to complain of their proceedings. For that purpose he launched into discussions on the particular nature of the colonial trade, which were not called for by my first note of August 26, and, as the case then stood, had no bearing on the question actually pending between the two countries. Aware of this, I had at first prepared a note placing the subject on the same ground to which we must ultimately resort. This, on reflection, I suppressed, preserving only what makes the last sentence of my note of 22d of September, and which was preserved only to let Mr. Canning see that his real object was understood. But the rest was suppressed, and what was in other respects an inconvenient mode of arguing was adopted, partly because I was imperfectly acquainted with the facts supplied by your despatch of 11th of November, principally in order not to urge prematurely this government to commit itself irrevocably on the subject.
Even now, if there did not appear a necessity to place the conduct and object of Great Britain in an uncontrovertible light at home, I would have thought it best to let the subject rest altogether for the present, and to wait, as was done in 1818-1822, for the changes which very few years must produce in this newly-adopted policy towards us.
But since it is necessary to obtain before the meeting of Congress an explicit answer from Great Britain, and such as will, as far as practicable, expose her real views, it is all-important not to afford her any pretence to evade the question.
For that purpose I have concluded to omit all the arguments contained in the first part of your despatch that relate to the colonial trade generally and to the questions of right and usage. If the discussion was in any degree renewed on those subjects, there would be great danger of this government taking a very improper advantage of it, and pretending that the presumed irreconcilableness of opinions on those points was the reason why it was impossible to arrange the intercourse by mutual legislation as well as by negotiation.
I believe that I will also be obliged to modify in some degree the declarations respecting the proceedings in Congress, so as to run no risk of denial or of being drawn into a discussion on that subject. The argument of Mr. Canning was that the Baltimore petition brought fairly before Congress the question of complying with the terms of the Act of Parliament, and that this was rejected by a majority of two votes. He has confounded the two Houses and misconceived the vote, which was not a rejection nor on the acceptance of the terms of the British Act. Yet it is true that the terms of the Act were brought before the Senate both by the petition and Mr. Lloyd’s report; that, exclusively of other reasons why negotiation should be preferred, the report very explicitly suggests that those terms as expressed were inadmissible, and that the Senate having then declined to act on the subject, not even on the simple repeal of the discriminating duties, may be considered as tantamount to a rejection of the terms offered. There is some difficulty in making the statement in such manner as will prevent cavils and their throwing on that circumstance the blame of the result which has taken place. There is none as to the main argument drawn from the causes which misled the United States, and which, after all, is that which Great Britain cannot get rid of.
It is worthy of observation that at no time, either during the session of 1825-1826 or during the last one, has any bill or proposition been brought from any quarter which was or could be considered as a simple and full compliance with the terms of the Act of Parliament; that is to say, proposing, in the words of the Act, “to place the navigation of Great Britain and of its possessions abroad upon the footing of the most favored nation.”
I mention this because even now the President proposes no such thing, and most certainly I do not mean to suggest that he ought to do it. But it is possible that this government when urged on the subject may, rather than absolutely refuse to raise the interdict, offer to do it provided an Act is passed by Congress accepting the terms in the very words of the Act of Parliament.
I have the honor, &c.
P.S.—There is no feeling arising from the President’s proclamation, which was expected as a matter of course. But I would not be astonished if this government should make it a pretence for refusing even an explanation.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 4th June, 1827.
I enclose the copy of a letter addressed this day to Lord Dudley1 on the subject of the colonial intercourse.
On general grounds it might perhaps have been preferable to let the whole matter rest for a twelvemonth, waiting with patience for such a change in the policy of this country as a reaction from the West India British colonies, a more favorable disposition on the part of the Ministry, or other circumstances may produce. But I am fully aware of the necessity of obtaining before the next session of Congress an explicit declaration of the real object of this government, which alone can secure the necessary concert on the part of the United States in adopting the measures fitting for the occasion. I would have thought that in order to obtain that declaration, which, whilst the policy remains the same, will not be given without reluctance, a direct inquiry would have been more efficient; and I have very little doubt that it will be necessary to resort to it. There are, however, some faint indications of a disposition to review the subject, which rendered it eligible that it should at least be brought before this government previous to the discussion in our conferences of the commercial convention.
I found some difficulty in dividing the subject, so as to say enough in the first instance to have a chance of eliciting a spontaneous manifestation of the views of Great Britain. To conclude the note by saying only that the United States acquiesced in the determination of this government not to negotiate was insufficient, since that acquiescence is a matter of necessity and on which there was no choice. I have therefore added a general expression of the President’s disposition to promote a restoration of the intercourse founded on mutual legislation. It is simply proceeding one step farther than in the note of 28th December last to Mr. Canning, which concluded by expressing the readiness of the United States to treat on the subject whenever it should be [the] inclination of Great Britain to negotiate upon it.
I have in a former despatch stated my reasons for omitting in the note some of the arguments contained in your despatch No. 26, and for saying nothing liable to cavil or contradiction and which might furnish this government with a pretence for avoiding the true question now at issue.
I have the honor, &c.
P.S.—I also enclose copy of a note written to Lord Dudley on the subject of the Africans intended to be returned to their own country.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 5th July, 1827.
Mr. Huskisson had, about a fortnight ago, intimated to me that the state of his health was such as imperiously to require that he should abstract himself altogether for a while from public business, that in order to effect this it was necessary that he should go abroad, and that he accordingly intended to take his departure as soon as possible after the prorogation of Parliament. It was understood that what related to the commercial convention, the renewal of the 3d Article of the convention of 1818, and to the “nine articles,” might be concluded before that time, and that another person would be appointed in his place to terminate the negotiations on the other points, or rather on the only remaining point, that which relates to the North-Eastern boundary.
The twelfth conference had been appointed for the 29th ult., but, on account of the press of business at the close of the session of Parliament, was put off until the 3d instant. On the 2d, Mr. Addington informed me that Mr. Huskisson was again indisposed, and requested that we should postpone the meeting till the 4th; on the 3d the conference was for the same reason delayed till this day. And yesterday Mr. Addington called upon me and read to me part of a letter from their secretary, stating that it was impossible for Mr. Huskisson to attend to-day, and that the state of his health was so precarious that it was extremely doubtful whether the new commission would not be made out (appointing another person) before another conference could take place.
Mr. Addington has still hopes, and it is very desirable, that Mr. Huskisson will be able to attend once more, so as to come to a determination on the subjects above mentioned. But this is doubtful; and, at all events, it is now ascertained that my stay here must be protracted longer than I had expected, probably till the 1st of October. Mr. Addington says that he does not know who is contemplated to succeed Mr. Huskisson in the negotiation. He told me that on one point government had come to a conclusion: it was utterly impossible for them to agree to a stipulation for the surrender of fugitive slaves.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 28th July, 1827.
Fearing that Mr. Huskisson’s departure might be attended with some inconvenience in the formal part of the negotiations, I transmitted with my despatch No. 97 the drafts proposed but not adjusted of the last conferences at which he had attended. Having in those that have since taken place agreed to renew the 3d and 4th Articles of the convention of 1818 indefinitely, but liable to be abrogated at the will of either party on twelve months’ notice, we agreed to curtail as far as practicable the protocols, with the exception of that of the ninth conference, which had been signed by Mr. Huskisson before he left town.
We have had three conferences since Mr. Grant has been substituted for Mr. Huskisson. It was at that of yesterday that we finally agreed. We meet again to-day in order to sign the protocols, and, if they are ready, the two conventions. And I hope that I may send them by the packet of 1st of August, for which Mr. Cucheval, the bearer of the treaty with Sweden, affords a good opportunity.
I received an invitation to dine the day before yesterday at Chiswick with Mr. Canning, and to be there at four o’clock, in order to converse on the various subjects pending between the two countries. There was but little to say on the commercial convention, it having been already agreed to renew it. What passed on the subject of the territory west of the Rocky Mountains, being in reference to the practicability of further arrangements calculated to preserve peace whilst the question of a definitive boundary remains unsettled, will be the subject of a distinct despatch.
He opened the subject of impressment, and asked the usual question whether we had any new guarantee to propose. After having reminded him that on that subject I was instructed to receive and discuss but not to make proposals, I told him that as to any guarantees, he must expect none but the good faith of the United States and the interest they had in fulfilling the engagements they might contract in relation to that object. I had on a former occasion stated the argument as to the question of right, and I now argued in general terms on the policy as far as Great Britain was concerned. I feel satisfied that Mr. Canning entertains the same view of the subject; but he is in that respect, as Lord Castlereagh was, ahead of public opinion or national pride; but he does not perhaps feel himself quite strong enough to encounter those sentiments and to give new arms to his adversaries; and I think that, notwithstanding his conviction that an agreement such as we might accept is extremely desirable, he is not prepared at this time to make the proposal.
I asked whether I might expect an answer to my last official note on the colonial intercourse, to which he answered in the negative, saying that he had considered it as merely giving some final explanations and closing the controversy. I told him that as far as related to controversy or argument he was correct, but that, having stated the acquiescence of the President in the determination of the British Cabinet to let the subject be regulated by the respective legislative regulations of the two governments, we had expected a declaration of the ultimate views of that of Great Britain in that respect. He expressed his surprise that after what had been already stated there could be any doubt on that point. This was nothing more than what I had expected; and I only observed that the course adopted by the British government was so contrary to the nature of things and to their avowed general principles, that we had naturally considered it as a temporary measure and founded in part on misapprehensions, which I had hoped we had succeeded in removing. I am confident that you may rely that no change will take place for the present, nor until the experiment of supplying their West India colonies through their own means shall have failed and produced a reaction.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 14th August, 1827.
It is now understood that the new Administration of this country is to be but a continuation of that of Mr. Canning, to act on the same principles, and no new appointments to be made but those that are strictly necessary.
Lord Goderich is First Lord of the Treasury. Lord Harrowby, President of the Council, retires from office, principally on account of a domestic affliction. Marquis Lansdowne, Lord Dudley, and the other Ministers, with the exception perhaps of Mr. Huskisson, remain in their respective offices. The Duke of Wellington may resume his place of commander-in-chief, but without a seat in the Cabinet, which he could not with propriety have accepted, since his fellow-seceders were excluded. Mr. Peel, and this is the greatest loss to the Administration, cannot at this time come in, having so lately committed himself by his solemn declaration that his reason for resigning was that he could not make part of an Administration at the head of which was a friend to Catholic emancipation.
The places to be filled are: 1, the President of the Council,—and I have not heard who is intended, perhaps the Duke of Portland; 2, Colonial Department, vacant by Lord Goderich’s promotion; 3, Chancellor of the Exchequer, an office which as a peer he cannot fill. It is probable that the option of these two places will be given to Mr. Huskisson, now on the Continent, where he was to remain three months, but whom the late event will probably bring back. The last place is that for which he is best qualified, and to which he is called by public opinion; but his precarious health will probably induce him to take the Colonial Department, as less laborious and, above all, as requiring less public speaking. In that case Mr. Herries, the principal Under-Secretary of the Treasury, and a capable man, but without political influence, will probably be the Chancellor, though Lord Palmerston is also spoken of; and Mr. Grant, now Vice-President, will naturally become President of the Board of Trade.
The great difficulty is who shall succeed Mr. Canning as leader of the House of Commons. Mr. Peel, who would have more of their confidence than any other man, is out of the question; and all that can be hoped is that, agreeing on almost every subject but that of the Catholic emancipation with the members of the Cabinet, he will not become the leader of an opposition. Without him there hardly can be one in the House of Commons; and the return of the Duke of Wellington to the command of the army would go far to paralyze that in the House of Lords, whilst it would add to the weight of the Administration abroad. Mr. Brougham is undoubtedly the first man in the House of Commons, superior to Mr. Canning in force and logic, at least equal in sarcastic powers, far more consistent in his political opinions; but these are much too rank for the House and, perhaps, for the nation. Not even a moderate Whig would do for the present, and Mr. Brougham is, besides, too harsh, better calculated to drive than to lead. Mr. Huskisson is, therefore, the only man; and he is accordingly looked on and intended as the Ministerial leader in the House.
This place, for it is one, united to the superiority of his talents and energy over his colleagues, would make him in reality almost Prime Minister, if he was not rather a sensible than an eloquent speaker, and if it was not that he must govern through two at least of his associates, Lord Goderich, who, besides all the patronage of his office, must be considered as the head of the moderate Tory party, and Marquis Lansdowne, who is the head of almost the whole Whig party; both also greatly and justly respected, and men of sound judgment and solid, if not showy, talents. Power will be more divided than under Mr. Canning. I think that the influence of Marquis Lansdowne would be greater if he could be transferred to the Foreign Office. As matters now stand, the great political questions will be decided by the Cabinet. Mr. Huskisson will have more weight in those affecting the finances of the country; he will direct almost exclusively (with the exception of the corn question) the commercial regulations, whether interior or in their connection with foreign relations.
There will, therefore, be no change in the policy of Great Britain towards us. The question of colonial intercourse was decided almost entirely by Mr. Huskisson’s influence. He adheres to that decision, and, immediately before leaving the country, again committed himself in that respect by positive assurance to merchants interested in the subject. All the difficulties in renewing the commercial convention, and the determination not to renew it unless it might be rescinded at will, also originated with him. He has an undue and not very liberal jealousy of the increasing navigation of the United States. In other respects he cannot be said to be hostile to them; and he would wish that causes of actual rupture might be removed. I have reason to believe that he would be in favor of a satisfactory arrangement on the subject of impressment. His views in regard of the country west of the Rocky Mountains are, on the whole, temperate, and the difficulties on the subject of the North-East boundary cannot be ascribed to him. Whether his reign will last is extremely doubtful; his general health is precarious, and he has an organic affection of the throat, so serious that he never made a long speech during the last session of Parliament without experiencing a relapse.
The present Administration will, at all events, last till after the next meeting of Parliament in January, and will probably become permanent, if not disturbed by untoward events. The critical situation of affairs in Portugal is at this moment the principal cause of embarrassment.
I have the honor to be respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 21st August, 1827.
I have the honor to enclose the copy of a note to Lord Dudley on the subject of the colonial intercourse, which, though dated the 17th, was only transmitted to-day.1
As soon as it was fully ascertained that this Administration was to be to all intents and purposes a continuation of that of Mr. Canning, with no other change but the addition of a single person (Mr. Herries or perhaps Mr. Grant), there was no motive for delaying the inquiry. Should the Ministry wait for Mr. Huskisson’s return, he may not arrive till November. Should they answer without consulting him, it affords the only, though extremely slender, chance of a change of policy. It is, however, much more probable that, imbued with the spirit of Mr. Canning’s Administration, they will, without waiting for Mr. Huskisson, answer in the negative. It is only in case they should hesitate that they will consult him. I have, at the same time I sent the note, asked an interview from Lord Dudley. I will also try to see Lord Goderich and Marquis Lansdowne, and use all the arguments which the occasion suggests to make an impression on them. Unfortunately, no inconvenience has yet been felt from the measures that have been adopted. You are better informed than I am of the manner in which the British West Indies have been supplied; but no remonstrance has yet been made from that quarter. The shipping interest, erroneously in my opinion, believes that it will be benefited by an adherence to the system. It is, therefore, supported at this time by the universal public opinion. There is not any motive at present to depart from it but the fear of displeasing us; and this is not sufficiently strong, with a Cabinet that has just lost its chief and contains no man very remarkable for decision to induce an immediate change of the policy bequeathed to it.
Mr. Canning, perfectly open, and even familiar, on every other subject, on that one was always rather repulsive and short, and always repelled any supposition that the intercourse would be restored. He always spoke as if the two declarations in his note of 11th September, 1826, were intended and must be understood as foreclosing the subject. Seeing him in that temper, I avoided pressing him prematurely, hoping that time might soften him and render him less positive, and knowing that, if they could produce any effect at all, my arguments had better be reserved for the time when it should become necessary to speak. Notwithstanding that unfavorable disposition, I had much rather have had to deal with him at this moment than with the present Cabinet, not only on account of my personal footing with him and of the reliance he would have placed in my representations so far as American facts were concerned, but because with his sagacity, quickness, self-confidence, and decision there was the chance that, if convinced and no longer under feelings of irritation, he would dare to act. Though influenced by Mr. Huskisson in all that related to commerce and commercial relations, he was the only man that could control him even on those subjects, and he had the exclusive lead when they became clearly affected by political considerations.
I enclose a London Gazette, containing an order of council of 16th July last, issued in conformity with the Act of Parliament of last session. You will see what nations have complied with the conditions of the Act of 5th July, 1825, and to which of those that had not complied (France and Russia) the privileges of trade and intercourse with the British colonies have nevertheless been extended. This invidious distinction, as contrasted with our exclusion, is one of the topics on which I intend to dwell.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 24th August, 1827.
I had stated that the present Administration might be considered as permanent till at least the next meeting of Parliament. The promptitude with which the general arrangements were made and approved by the King, without any apparent dissatisfaction in any part of the Cabinet, had removed the uncertainty that prevailed during the first moments; and I had not paid much attention to some subsequent floating rumors to the contrary, having had very direct information corroborating the general opinion. (This was principally derived from Mr. Dennison, whom you have seen in America, one of the most promising young men of the country, one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and lately married to the daughter of the Duke of Portland.)
But I have had since reasons to alter my opinion. I was stating to Lord Dudley, in a transient conversation I had with him the night before last, that the interview I had asked with him was principally for the purpose of giving explanations and making some important observations on the subject of my note of 17th instant, previous to its being taken into consideration by his Majesty’s government. But I immediately discovered that they were not at all prepared even for that preliminary discussion, that the arrangements were not completed, and that there was some cause of uneasiness among themselves. As he said emphatically that they had no head, I asked whether Mr. Huskisson was expected; to which he answered that he was most anxiously expected and wanted. His return will not make our case worse, for it is clear that his colleagues would have referred it to him, and it is not so bad to have to deal with him present and in a direct way as absent and through an intermediary. The unsettled state of the Administration can produce no other inconvenience to us but delay; and we have nothing to lose by a change,—very little to hope, it is true, for I strongly suspect that, whoever is in, Mr. Huskisson will remain.
The cause of this misunderstanding, if not compromised, will soon be known. From some hints, and from two opposite pieces in the Times and Courier of yesterday, I think it probable that the Whigs are dissatisfied, and that the opposition to Mr. Tierney’s pretensions to the Chancellorship of the Exchequer may have contributed to their displeasure.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 30th August, 1827.
The suggestion that Mr. Tierney had pretensions to the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, contained in my despatch No. 109, was unfounded. This Cabinet was formed and the accession of the Whigs was founded on the principle of amalgamation between them and the moderate tories, with whom they do not differ on any practical important question; but in this was implied the exclusion from the Ministry, though not from office, of the high Tories. Mr. Herries, who is one of these, was designated as Chancellor by the King without having, it is said, consulted the Cabinet. This nomination had its origin either in bias for the ultra Tory or rather High-Church party, or in indirect influence, perhaps in both. A majority of the Cabinet was highly dissatisfied, and objected; the Marquis of Lansdowne intimated that he would resign; others are said to have held the same language; the King was irritated; a question arose how far his power to form a Ministry extended; and everything was kept in suspense, waiting for Mr. Huskisson.
This gentleman, hearing at Innsbrück of Mr. Canning’s illness and danger, immediately took his departure, without waiting for official or further advices. He arrived at Paris much fatigued, and was obliged to rest there some days. His return to England has been accelerated by the pressing solicitations of his colleagues; and he arrived here on the 28th. He had yesterday a long interview with the King, and is to return to-day to Windsor. The easiest way to get rid of the difficulty would be for him to accept the office in question; in which case Lord Palmerston would probably be transferred to the Colonial Department, and no new person be introduced in the Cabinet. But this would be a great personal sacrifice; the difference of salary is, I believe, £2000, and Mr. Huskisson is not rich; what is a still more important consideration, and not to him alone, is that, with his precarious health, he wants in the House the assistance of a Chancellor, instead of being burdened with the duties of the office. Whether this will take place, or either of the parties will yield, or the Administration be new-modelled, must be decided incessantly, but is as yet quite uncertain. Till this is settled, everything that relates to us remains suspended, and I cannot move a single step. I have only taken the necessary measures to have an interview with Mr. Huskisson on the subject of the colonial intercourse as soon as their own matters shall have been arranged. . . .
Your despatch No. 24, in favor of Messrs. Howland, has been received this morning; Mr. Brent’s letter of 20th July, enclosing sundry papers relative to the rolled-iron question, is also received. Though too late for the discussion, I have been gratified to find that I had in the course of the negotiation taken no ground, either as to facts or argument, that did not entirely accord with the language formerly held and with the view that had been entertained of the subject.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 21st September, 1827.
After a very arduous negotiation, we have at last agreed on the terms of the intended convention for regulating the proceedings of the reference to a friendly sovereign or state of the North-Eastern boundary, in conformity with the 5th Article of the Treaty of Ghent. Some points of minor importance in the general map, agreed on in lieu of the two conflicting that had been rejected by the commission, remain alone to be adjusted. This map is only a skeleton, containing the water-courses and connecting together the partial surveys filed with the commissioners. The contending lines are traced on it in reference to the water-courses; but none of the highlands are delineated on it, this being, in fact, the main question at issue, and on which we could not, of course, agree.
I was in hopes to have sent by the packet of the 24th the protocols and an informal copy of the convention; but they are not yet prepared. The convention itself will probably be signed in time to be transmitted with the accompanying documents (the general map excepted) by the packet of the 1st of October. I will now only say that we preserve all the evidence laid before the commissioners, and dispense with all the rest of their proceedings, including reports and arguments; that for these, statements, to be drawn by each party, are to be substituted, with power to each to make a reply; that provision is made for the adducing new evidence within nine months after the exchange of the ratifications; and also power reserved to the arbiter to call for additional evidence and elucidations, and to order new surveys if he shall think it necessary.
The British plenipotentiaries will not entertain any proposition respecting the navigation of the St. Lawrence founded on the right claimed by the United States to navigate that river to the sea. Although it may prove hereafter expedient to make a temporary agreement without reference to the right (which I am not authorized to do), I am satisfied that, for the present at least and whilst the intercourse with the British West Indies remains interdicted, it is best to leave that by land or inland navigation with the North American British provinces to be regulated by the laws of each country respectively. The British government will not, whilst the present state of things continues, throw any impediment in the way of that intercourse if the United States will permit it to continue. I have not received the answer of this government to the inquiry respecting the colonial intercourse, nor that of the British plenipotentiaries on the Nine Articles. These are the only subjects remaining unfinished.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 26th September, 1827.
At our last conference, which took place yesterday, the British plenipotentiaries took up the subject of the “Nine Articles.”
They reiterated the declaration, which they had already intimated, that their government could not accede to the proposal of a mutual surrender of fugitive slaves taking refuge in any part of America within the dominions of the other party. When the proposal was first mentioned, I had thought, perhaps erroneously, that it was not unfavorably received, and that the objections applied only to the mode of execution. The reason alleged for refusing to accede to a provision of that kind is that they cannot, with respect to the British possessions where slavery is not admitted, depart from the principle recognized by the British courts, that every man is free who reaches British ground. I do not believe that there has been any decision extending that principle to Canada and other provinces on the continent of North America; and I do not know whether the fact is strictly correct that slavery is forbidden in Canada. But it has been intimated to me informally that such was the state of public opinion here on that subject that no Administration could or would admit in a treaty a stipulation such as was asked for. No specific reason has been entered on the protocol by the British plenipotentiaries.
They further stated that, one of the most material articles having been rejected (the second), and the two governments not being agreed on several of the others, they did not consider the subjects embraced by the articles to be of sufficient importance or urgency to be the subject of a separate convention.
I observed that most of the amendments I had proposed had been offered only for consideration and as improvements of the original propositions made by Great Britain; that, if not viewed in that light by her, I would not be tenacious, and that, as there were only two on which I was instructed to insist, and these such as I was sure would not be rejected, there would be no difficulty if the apparent disagreement on some points was the only objection.
They then said that they really did not think it worth while to make a convention for such purposes only as the articles embraced; that most of the provisions therein contemplated (Articles 3 to 8) were such as would, between Great Britain and the United States, be naturally acted on without a treaty; and that when the propositions had been made in 1824, it had been with the expectation that they would be appended to a convention embracing more important objects.
Although the reasons assigned did not in every respect appear conclusive, I could but acquiesce in the determination of the British plenipotentiaries.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, 28th September, 1827.
The convention respecting the North-East boundary is not yet signed; but I believe that it will be ready to-morrow or early next week, when we shall hold our last conference, all the subjects on which we were respectively instructed being exhausted.
I will transmit the protocols at the same time with the convention, to which they refer almost exclusively.
The answer to my note of 17th August to Lord Dudley has not yet been received, and I do not know whether there is any intention to delay it, although I am certain, from another conversation I had yesterday with Mr. Huskisson, that there is none to change the determination already announced on that subject. This being the only thing which, after signing the convention, will detain me here, I will, when it shall have been received, avail myself of the permission of the President to return home when the negotiations intrusted to my care should have been terminated.
I have reason to believe that had Mr. Canning lived he would have opened a negotiation on the subject of impressment. Understanding, from an authentic source, that there was some disposition to that effect amongst two or three members of the Cabinet, I sought an interview with Mr. Huskisson in order to ascertain the fact; as, however anxious to return, I would have remained till next spring had there been any chance whatever to make a satisfactory arrangement on that subject, or, indeed, on any of those on which we have heretofore been unable to agree.
Mr. Huskisson expressed himself in the most decided terms in favor of an arrangement founded on the basis heretofore proposed by the United States. He entered into no details and asked no questions, as he was aware that the proposal must come from Great Britain. But he said that if the right was well founded, and he did not intimate that it was, it was one the exercise of which was intolerable. He had been in hopes that, had Lord Liverpool’s Administration been permitted to continue, a satisfactory arrangement might have been made. But he was sorry to be obliged to add that this was not the time to take up that subject, that he could not recommend it to the consideration of his colleagues, and that it must be postponed to a more favorable opportunity.
It is very clear that he does not think this Administration sufficiently strong, and that he does not wish, deprived of the assistance of Lord Liverpool and Mr. Canning, to encounter on that subject the clamor of the navy, the opposition of the Tories, and, if not the public opinion, at least the pride of the nation.
I may here remark that I have not been able to arrange any subject but such as did not admit of being delayed. And although this has been in a great degree owing to the unfavorable temper I had to encounter, it may also be in part ascribed to the unsettled state of the Cabinet since Lord Liverpool’s political death. The determination not to open the colonial intercourse, and that not to negotiate on the navigation of the river St. Lawrence without something like a disclaimer of the right, had been taken before my arrival; and on both points this government was immovable. In other respects, and in their feelings generally towards the United States, I think that they are in a better disposition than I found them.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, October 3, 1827.
I have the honor to enclose Lord Dudley’s answer (dated 1st instant) to my notes of 4th June and of 17th of August. I had anticipated the negative answer to the inquiry contained in the last-mentioned note, having had two interviews with Mr. Huskisson, in which I exhausted in vain every argument drawn either from sound policy or from the friendly feelings he professes, and on some subjects entertains, towards the United States. I found him immovable, but could not obtain any satisfactory explanation of the motives for persevering in the measures adopted in regard to the colonial intercourse. I only discovered irritation, not yet extinguished, on account of the United States not having met, especially in 1823 and 1824, the overtures of Great Britain as he thought they ought to have been; and it seems to me that there is also some obstinacy in the way.
I had not expected that Lord Dudley would have reverted to topics already so much debated and again try to raise doubts on points which had been satisfactorily explained. Indeed, Mr. Canning had explicitly told me that he thought it was time to close the controversy, and that he would not make any answer to my note of 4th of June. Although there was very little worth notice in Lord Dudley’s animadversions, yet, as there would have been no further convenient opportunity to answer him, I have made a reply, copy of which is enclosed.1 I was strongly tempted to write what I had said to Mr. Huskisson. But it was so irregular, to show that Great Britain derived no advantage from her measures, and to demonstrate that she was mistaken in what regarded her own commercial policy, that I abstained. Although they ought not to have again controverted our statements, the answer was intended to be very civil to the United States.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
London, October 4, 1827.
Having brought to a close the negotiations which had been intrusted to my care, and received the definitive answer of this government to the proposal which I had been authorized to make on the subject of the colonial intercourse, I will avail myself of the permission of the President to return to the United States.
I have accordingly presented Mr. Lawrence to Lord Dudley, and will write an official letter to his Lordship informing him that I have permission to return on leave of absence, and that Mr. Lawrence will remain as chargé d’affaires till the President’s pleasure is known.
The current business of this mission is much less than I had anticipated, and there will be none of a public nature till some time after the meeting of Parliament. It is only then that the movements respecting the Ministry may become interesting and that the acts or measures which might affect our interests must be watched.
I have the honor, &c.
GALLATIN TO HENRY CLAY.
New York, 30th November, 1827.
I arrived here last night, after a passage of fifty-two days, and presume that you must have already received the duplicate of the despatches, &c., which I transmit by this day’s mail.
I omitted to state in my despatch No. 115 that Mr. Huskisson complained that the laws of the United States imposing restrictions on the colonial intercourse applied exclusively to Great Britain.
I replied that the reason was because Great Britain was the only power that imposed in that intercourse restrictions on American vessels. If the list of articles of imports or exports from and to the United States was limited in the French and Dutch colonies, the limitation was the same, and no other restrictions imposed on the American navigation than on that of the mother-country. As to Cuba, it was notorious that, although the restrictive colonial system might not have been repealed, it was a dead letter, and that the trade of that island was perfectly open to us as well as to other nations. Mr. Huskisson observed on this that it was true that Cuba, though nominally a Spanish possession, was in reality a colony of the United States. Whether he thinks that a similar effect would be produced with respect to the British West Indies if opened to the United States, I will not pretend to say. But it may be considered as a settled point with him not to make the laws regulating that intercourse to depend directly or indirectly on any agreement or understanding whatever. If it is again opened, it will [be] on such conditions as may be prescribed by Act of Parliament, and to be accepted or rejected but not modified by the United States.
I have some further explanations to give respecting the maps accompanying my despatch No. 124 and the evidence to be collected or applied for under the convention relative to the North-Eastern boundary. But, as this does not relate to the merits of the convention, but to the proceedings under it if it shall be ratified, I will rest some days before I take up the subject.
I have the honor to be, respectfully, sir, your most obedient servant.
GALLATIN TO J. Q. ADAMS.
New York, 5th December, 1827.
I have been so much indisposed since we landed that, with the exception of a short letter to Mr. Clay announcing my arrival, I have not written a single line.
It would have gratified me to have complied with your wishes by remaining one year longer in England; and I would have done it had not the situation of my family rendered an early return a matter of urgency, or had there been any prospect that, within that time, any of the subjects of negotiation which I had not succeeded in arranging might be again taken up with advantage. There were four of that description: 1. The colonial intercourse, of which there is no hope, and for which we must wait till a change of men or of opinion takes place in England. Indeed, had it not been for other considerations, it would have been better not to have agitated again the subject this year. 2. Some more permanent arrangement respecting the territory west of the Rocky Mountains until the boundary can be agreed to. There is in regard to that question, on which I wrote an official despatch, an intrinsic difficulty, that of military posts, without which our citizens would not be protected, and which, if Great Britain should follow the example, would give her a hold of the country difficult to get rid of. But, could that be arranged, I am satisfied that the Western feelings, and the fear, unfounded in my opinion, of the ultimate views of England in that respect, would prevent anything being done at this time. As the British government seemed anxious on that subject, I have impressed on them the necessity of transferring the negotiation respecting it to Washington, where alone what is practicable can be ascertained. 3. The navigation of the St. Lawrence. This might, in my opinion, be obtained at any time by renouncing the right. It is certain that it could not be secured at this time by any agreement which would not be tantamount to a renunciation. But I believe that, by letting the matter rest for a while, a temporary convention may ultimately be made in such terms as will give us the navigation on the grounds of mutual convenience, and, if not with a reservation, yet without any abandonment of the right. I must, however, observe that, as the great inducement for Great Britain to agree to this is the wish to turn our commerce through the channel of Quebec, she may ask as a condition that the exportation of our produce to Canada shall not be prohibited, unless the prohibition be general,—a provision which may be deemed inadmissible so long as her West India possessions are shut to our vessels. In the mean while, the British Cabinet now understands so well what it is the interest of Great Britain to do in that respect, that it is extremely improbable that the trade of our citizens there shall be again interrupted. 4. Impressment. This is the only subject on which, in my opinion, an arrangement may perhaps be made in the course of next year on the basis of the article which Mr. Rush had been authorized to propose. The British Administration is generally, if not unanimously, in favor of it. If any of its members is against it, which I cannot assert, it must be some one of no consequence. But the navy and, as they think, public opinion is against it; and they dare not approach the question until it shall have been ascertained during the next session of Parliament that they are firmly established in their places. It is very true that the contemplated arrangement is founded on a concession on our part. In order to obtain the relinquishment of an intolerable practice for which England has not the shadow of a right, we would agree to abstain from employing their seamen, which we have an undoubted right to do. There is no motive for it but that of avoiding being involved in a war with Great Britain against our inclination and interest whenever she may happen to be at war with any other country. I do not know precisely what importance you attach to that subject, but, if you think the arrangement desirable, I would beg leave to suggest that it would be facilitated by removing the restriction laid on me to make no proposal. The British Cabinet is, however, fully apprised that the propositions must come from them. I must add that at my last conference with Mr. Huskisson, after he had expressed himself in the most explicit manner as very desirous that an arrangement should be made, I told him that, although anxious to return home, I would remain at least till next spring, if he would assure me that he would bring that subject before his colleagues within a reasonable time and recommend it to their consideration, and that he declared his total inability of doing it, or of assigning any time when it might be done.
I have certainly left the British government in better temper than I found them. The unsettled state of the Administration and the successive removal or death of two Prime Ministers were vexatious circumstances, and which increased the difficulties of my mission. Whilst I regret that nothing more could be done, I am consoled by the consciousness that all has been done that was practicable. I have left literally nothing to do in Mr. Lawrence’s hands except attending to a private claim of 300 pounds. The current business of the mission is nothing at all; at least I found it so during my residence. Nothing will be done in England that can affect us before the meeting of Parliament, and it is extremely rare that anything is matured before the Easter recess. From March to September is the period when the presence of a minister of the United States is most necessary. But the sooner a successor is appointed and repairs to England the better it will be, as a new man may not understand the ground at once.
I have written so much at large on every subject that I do not anticipate that my presence can be necessary at Washington for the sake of giving any verbal explanations; and a journey would be rather inconvenient, it being my intention to spend this winter here. But if I am wanted for anything connected with my late mission, I will of course attend as soon as my health will permit me to travel.
There is but one subject on which, as far as I can judge, I may be of some use, and that is the North-East boundary. But, as this would be in relation not to the convention but to the proceedings under it if it is ratified, it is not a matter of immediate urgency. I will, in the mean while, prepare another official despatch on that subject, giving all the explanations that can be given in a letter.
I have the honor to be, with sincere respect and attachment, dear sir, your most obedient servant.
J. Q. ADAMS TO GALLATIN.
Washington, December 12, 1827.
I have received your obliging letter from New York, and although it would give me great pleasure to see you here, I know not that any material public interest will require your presence. Your three conventions were sent yesterday to the Senate for their consideration. In what light they will view them I cannot yet foresee. I wish they may prove as satisfactory to them as they are to me.
I regret exceedingly for the public interest that you found yourself under the necessity of coming home. At the time of your arrival in England, although I do not believe they had a deliberate purpose of coming to a rupture with us, they were undoubtedly in a waspish temper, and Mr. Canning had determined to play off upon us one of his flourishes for effect. He had been laying up a stock of resentments, for which he was hoping to expose us to public and open humiliation. I believe that which most rankled in his mind was the disappointment of the slave-trade convention, though he said, perhaps, not a word to you about it.
But, whatever it was, your convention upon the slave indemnities first turned the tide of feeling and soothed irritations on both sides. You gained an ascendency over him by suffering him to fancy himself victorious on some points by the forbearance to expose too glaringly his absurdities, and his position, from the time of Lord Liverpool’s political demise, warned him that he had enemies enough upon his hands without seeking this querelle d’Allemand with us.
Nothing can be more preposterous than their obstinacy upon this colonial trade squabble; and you had not set your foot on board ship before they began to grow sick of it. A hurricane had already burst upon the island of St. Kitts and the Virgin Isles. They have now, by proclamation, opened the Bahama Islands for vessels in ballast to go and take salt and fruit, and, on the 31st of October, Mr. Grant told Mr. Lawrence that he regretted you had not settled this affair as satisfactorily as the others. Lord Dudley also admires the great ability of your last note on the subject. These are among the indications not only that their experiment of supplying their islands without us is failing, but that they begin to feel it. I believe had you stayed over the winter, they would have come to our terms upon this affair before another summer. Whether they would promote our own interest so well as the present condition of things, remains, as it always has been, a more doubtful point to me.
The North-Eastern boundary question is far otherwise important to us than that of the colonial trade; so important as to give me the deepest concern. I hope your convention will have the approbation of the Senate, and that the sequel will be satisfactory to us. We shall want the benefit of your information and of your advice.
There are so many of these breakers close aboard of us that I have lost some of my concern for the distant danger of impressment. Mr. Canning was so found of creating worlds that, under his Administration, the turn of a straw would have plunged Great Britain into a war with any nation upon earth. His successors will be more prudent, and, I hope, more pacific. If they should engage in a war to which we shall be in the first instance neutral, I doubt whether they will authorize their officers to impress beyond their own territorial jurisdiction. I would not lose any opportunity of coming to an arrangement with them to abolish this odious practice, but I am weary of renewing with them desperate discussions upon it.
Altogether, if your conventions are ratified, I shall indulge a strong hope that our relations with Great Britain generally will become more friendly than they have lately been. But I know only that I shall feel most sensibly the loss of your presence at London, and can form no more earnest wish than that your successor may acquire the same influence of reason and good temper which you did exercise, and that it may be applied with as salutary effect to the future discussions between the two governments.
I remain, with great respect and attachment, your friend.
[1 ]This note will be found in American State Papers, vol. vi. (Foreign Relations) p. 975.
[1 ]See American State Papers, vi. 977.
[1 ]See State Papers, vi. 982.