Front Page Titles (by Subject) J. Q. ADAMS TO GALLATIN. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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J. Q. ADAMS TO GALLATIN. - 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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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.
GALLATIN TO EDWARD EVERETT.
New York, August 6, 1828.
I have received your letter of 29th ult., and really think that the article in the Quarterly Review is not worth answering. I will, however, note the principal errors in pages 285-290.
The United States may in their diplomatic intercourse have been guilty of much cold argumentation, never to my knowledge (excepting Pickering versus Adet) of any want of the usual courtesy and civility. The charge is quite untrue as to the correspondence, &c., with Great Britain since the Treaty of Ghent. See in the additional documents on colonial intercourse laid before Congress on 28th April last, No. 259, Lord Dudley’s declaration, at bottom of page 42. Observe that the inquiry and generally the tenor of my correspondence were in strict conformity with Mr. Clay’s instructions. And I do know that the British government was equally pleased with the tone and manner of Mr. Rush during the whole of his mission and negotiations. But we publish everything; and the instructions of a Secretary of State to an American minister abroad must be explicit, and may not always be clothed in the same polite language towards a foreign nation which is used in a diplomatic note.
The doctrine of impressment as laid down by the writer is untenable and absurd, and his assertion, that the Americans have no concern with the general question, outrageous. With the special question, that of the right of Great Britain to press her own subjects within her own jurisdiction, they have nothing to do; but they never will again submit to the extension of that special right to a general claim of pressing any person, American or British, on the high seas on board of American vessels. The question of right should not, however, be discussed without having paid great attention to the subject, an investigation of no inconsiderable labor; and there are, besides, reasons of a public nature connected with the real opinions of the British government why the discussion should be now avoided. But taking, without discussing it, the right as being indubitably on our side, the writer may be treated as severely as you please, and it may in the strongest manner be asserted that no independent nation can; that Great Britain is the last nation that would submit to the practice, and that America never will again.
It is not true that any line has been agreed on yielding to the United States the contested territory of six and half (not ten) millions of acres, adjacent to New Brunswick, which they claim in strict conformity with the letter and spirit of the treaty of 1783. The commissioners on that part of the boundary extending from the source of the St. Croix to St. Regis, on the St. Lawrence (Mr. Van Ness and old Mr. Barclay), disagreed, the British commissioner having very erroneously decided in favor of the British pretension to that territory, and the question being now at issue and left to the decision of an arbiter.
But there was another commission on the boundary extending from St. Regis to the Lake of the Woods. On this the two commissioners (General Porter and young Mr. Barclay) did agree; and it is true that in dividing the islands in the river St. Lawrence between the two powers, the best channel has in one place fallen within the limits of the United States. Observe that whilst the British refuse us the free navigation of that river through their territories, we have not as yet, though we may do it, forbidden their using our channel.
The geocentric latitude is, at least in part, a fair hit; but the facts are not correctly stated. It was on the suggestion of Mr. Hassler, the astronomer on the part of the United States, that Mr. Bradley, the American agent, was induced, in one of his arguments before the commission, to submit, as a matter of doubt, whether the 45th degree of latitude should not be determined in conformity not with the observed but with the geocentric latitude; which afforded to the British agent (Mr. Chipman) the only triumph he could boast of in the whole course of the argument. But this pretension has never been countenanced by the government of the United States. Their commissioner, Mr. Van Ness, did not sustain it; Mr. Monroe was not consulted on the subject; it was not mentioned by the American agent to Mr. Gallatin, who was minister at Paris the whole time the commission was in session in America, and who never heard of that pretension, that had been thus advanced in the year 1820, till after he had been appointed minister to England in 1826. He declared at once the position to be untenable; the principle of geocentric latitude (which is derived from the figure of the earth, now known not to be a sphere) having never been received in geography; no map having ever been constructed on that principle; the observed latitude having been and being always meant in common parlance and in treaties; and all the boundary-lines (depending on latitude) between the several States, as well as that of the 31st degree (as surveyed by Ellicot) between the United States and what was then Spanish Florida, having been understood and surveyed according to the observed latitude. What the American government contends for in that respect is that so much of the line established prior to the year 1776, as being in the latitude of 45 degrees and the boundary between the then provinces of New York and Quebec, as had been actually surveyed prior to that year under the joint authority of the two provinces, was not by the Treaty of Ghent intended to be again surveyed, but is and ought to remain as heretofore the boundary between the dominions of the two powers.
It is not intended to discuss now questions which by agreement have been left to the decision of an arbiter; and the discussion at this moment might be injurious, by disclosing to the British government more of our argument than is necessary; but, if there was any inclination to retaliate, the arguments or rather assertions of the British agent and commissioner on the great question, the Maine boundary, would afford the most ample field. The British government may have new arguments to offer, but those heretofore adduced are a most incoherent mass of disgraceful cavils, and if nothing better is advanced the British have not a shadow of claim to the contested territory.
It is not true that the claim of the United States to the river Columbia and Western territory rests only on Lewis and Clark’s voyage. But the official statements of the claims of the two powers have been attached, that by Messrs. Huskisson and Addington to the protocol of the sixth, and that by myself to the protocol of the seventh conference; and both have been communicated to the House of Representatives by the President on 15th March last. Document 199, pages 50 to 71.
The facts, &c., relating to the claim to the navigation of the St. Lawrence will be found in document No. 43, communicated by the President to the House of Representatives on 7th January last. The argument derived from natural law is strong; the precedents, that of the Scheldt excepted, are, I fear, against us; the most formidable objection is perhaps to be found in forty years’ acquiescence, and in having accepted by the treaty of 1794 a part only, and very limited, of the navigation, unaccompanied by any assertion or reservation of the right. I have no doubt of the free navigation being ultimately allowed by Great Britain, not as a matter of right, but because it is clearly their interest to afford every facility that may draw our produce to Quebec.
It is not for me to advise; but, if you think it necessary to answer the article of the Review, I wish, because I think it for the public interest, that it may be done in as conciliatory manner towards the British government as is consistent with our rights. The writer may be treated with the severity he deserves; but, without hoping for an Utopian state of things, I may say that there is more need to assuage than to irritate the feelings of two countries placed by natural causes in such extraordinary and delicate relative situation as the United States and Great Britain. I hope to see you in Boston in September next, and remain, respectfully, dear sir, your obedient and faithful servant.