Front Page Titles (by Subject) GALLATIN TO DANIEL JACKSON. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 2
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GALLATIN TO DANIEL JACKSON. - 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 DANIEL JACKSON.
New York, 23d August, 1836.
You are aware that General Armstrong has asserted, in his notices of the last war, that the letters which conveyed with so much celerity the news of the declaration of war to the British posts in Canada were franked by me as Secretary of the Treasury. I have it in my power to prove by whom and how the information was conveyed, and that I was altogether ignorant of the transaction, and neither franked the letters nor had anything to do with it. But I do not wish, without an absolute necessity, to bring to public notice the name of the party concerned, and would much prefer simply to state what letters I wrote or transmitted which may have afforded a pretence for the rumors circulated by General Hull, to which General Jessup has given credit and the sanction of his name. I wrote none but public letters, and transmitted none but to collectors. But the late destruction by fire of the correspondence and other papers in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury prevents my obtaining authentic copies of my letters, which were all recorded; and I have not been able to ascertain whether Reuben Atwater, collector at Detroit at the time, is still alive, or what has become of his papers. It is for the purpose of obtaining information on that subject that I request your good offices during your journey to Detroit and Michilimackinac.
The only letters written or transmitted by me were two of the same tenor and date, addressed to the collectors of Detroit and Michilimackinac, and one from Mr. Astor to his agent at the last-mentioned place or at St. Joseph’s, transmitted to the collector of Detroit; and they all arose out of the following circumstances. Some years before the last war, Mr. Astor had communicated to our government the prospect he had to be able, and his intention, to purchase one-half of the interest of the Canadian Fur Company, which, under the treaty of 1794, had engrossed the trade by the way of Michilimackinac with our own Indians. This overture was received with great satisfaction by the Administration, from a hope that an American influence might thereby be gradually introduced amongst the Indians. I was directed to write an official letter to Mr. Astor approving his plan and giving assurances of the protection due to every citizen engaged in lawful and useful pursuits; and the President (Mr. Jefferson) wrote him a letter to the same effect. The purchase was accordingly effected by Mr. Astor.
Immediately before the declaration of war he represented to government that a quantity of merchandise, including arms and ammunition, intended for the Indian trade, and belonging to that concern of which he was half owner, was deposited at St. Joseph’s; that, both for his own interest and in order to prevent the goods from falling into the hands of Indians who might prove hostile, he was desirous to have the property conveyed into the United States, but that he was prevented from so doing by the non-intercourse law. The Executive could not annual the provisions of that law, and the power of the Secretary of the Treasury to remit forfeitures did not extend to a case where such forfeiture was voluntarily incurred. I was therefore directed merely to instruct the collectors on the Lakes to receive and keep in their custody such of the above-mentioned goods as might be thus brought in by Mr. Astor’s agents, and not to commence prosecutions till further orders; it being intended to submit the case, if it should occur, to the consideration of Congress. Letters to that effect were accordingly written to the collectors of Detroit and Michilimackinac, of which, for the reason above mentioned, I cannot give either the copy or the precise date.
Mr. Astor had much more important concerns (ships in the Canton trade, the establishment at the mouth of the Columbia River) than the goods at St. Joseph’s which might be materially affected by a war. Becoming more alarmed at the reports concerning the secret proceedings in Congress, he left New York for Washington, where he arrived, horseback, on Friday evening, the 19th of June, the day after war had been declared; event of which he was first informed the same day on the road between Baltimore and Washington. He left that place, on his return to New York, on the 22d or 23d of the same month; and on the day of his departure he left with me, requesting that it might be sent to Detroit and forwarded thence, an open letter directed to his agent at Michilimackinac or St. Joseph’s (I forget which), pressing him to bring the property into the United States, if it was still practicable. I think (though Mr. Astor does not recollect it) that it was accompanied by a letter of his to the collector of Detroit requesting him to forward that for the agent. I enclosed the letter under cover directed to the collector and sent it to the War Department, to be transmitted by an express of that Department, who was to depart on Wednesday, 24th of June, with despatches for General Hull.
As an express had been despatched to him on the 19th of June, I could be under no apprehension that any letter sent on the 24th would bring the first account of the declaration of war. In point of fact, the account reached Malden by the way of New York, Albany, and Queenstown, and was first known at Detroit by the capture of General Hull’s transport, and not by any communication from Washington. Finally, the letter thus transmitted by me did not reach its destination, and did not fall in the hands of the enemy, but in those of General Hull, in whose possession it was seen by General Findlay and others. Yet this must have been the only foundation on which he thought proper to circulate the report that the information of the declaration of war was transmitted to the enemy through my means and was the cause of the capture of his stores.
The war and subsequent capture of Michilimackinac and Detroit prevented, I presume, my letters being acknowledged or answered. No answer had reached the Treasury in May, 1813, when I left the United States for Europe. The report circulated by General Hull was mentioned to me in October or November, 1812, by General Findlay. I stated to him the facts as above mentioned in this letter; and, considering the report as a lame attempt on the part of the unfortunate general to throw on others the blame of one of his minor blunders, I paid no attention to it, and left him at full liberty to bring, on his pending trial, any evidence in his possession which might tend to exculpate him. I was credibly informed, after my first return from Europe (1815-1816), that the collector of Detroit (Atwater) had attempted to forward Mr. Astor’s letter, and despatched a boat to that effect for Michilimackinac on the 3d of July; that the person in charge of the boat, being informed on the way that the war was known at all the British posts, and afraid of being captured, returned to Detroit after a few days with the letter, and that it was on his return that General Hull took possession of the letter and kept it. But I have not the proof of this, the letter giving the account, and which was not directed to me, having been mislaid.
Having troubled you with this long statement in order that, being master of the subject, you may judge of the information generally which would be useful to me, I will now state the points to which I would more particularly call your attention, viz.:
1st. Copies, if attainable, of my two above-mentioned letters of same tenor and date (June, 1812) to the collectors of Detroit and Michilimackinac; and, if not to be had, any information that can be obtained respecting their tenor, their date, that of their being received, and their fate.
2dly. Copies, if any can be had, of any letter from me (if I wrote any) or from Mr. Astor to the collector of Detroit, dated 22d to 24th June, 1812, and accompanying Mr. Astor’s letter to his agent at Michilimackinac or Detroit; and, if no such copies can be had, any information respecting the time when such letter or letters was or were received, the disposition made of Mr. Astor’s letter, and its fate.
3dly. Whether Mr. Reuben Atwater is alive, and, if so, the place of his residence; if dead, when and where he died, and in whose possession his papers may have fallen.
4thly. Any other information which you may think useful to me respecting those points and the report circulated that the news of the declaration of war was made known to the enemy, directly or indirectly, through me.
The only persons I can think of who can give information are: 1. Mr. Reuben Atwater, former collector of Detroit, who resigned 1st January, 1816, Mr. Woodbridge, still alive, who succeeded him, and the present collector, whose name I do not know. I am not without hope that the official papers of Mr. Atwater were transmitted to his successors, and that, at all events, Mr. Woodbridge may have had knowledge of the facts.
2. At Michilimackinac, Mr. Abbot, who has been both collector of that port and Mr. Astor’s agent.
3. In Canada, if still living, L’Herbette, special clerk or agent of Mr. Astor at St. Joseph’s and Michilimackinac in 1812, and Toussaint Pothier, agent at St. Joseph’s in 1812, of the joint concern of Mr. Astor and the Montreal Company, and to whom was addressed the letter from New York which, in fact, gave the information there of the declaration of war. If that letter had my frank, it was forged, which I altogether disbelieve.
I have not time to transcribe this letter, and request you to preserve it. With best wishes for your safe journey, I remain, respectfully, dear sir, your obedient servant.