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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, 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.